Local Jobs Report - January 2015

by Christiana K. McFarland

The Local Jobs Report is a monthly analysis of the employment situation released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics with a specific lens on local government employment.

According to the BLS January jobs report, despite surprising growth in private sector employment, government employment registered a decline of 10,000 jobs. Federal government was responsible for the bulk of the job loss, with slight declines in state employment and local education. Local government (non-education) employment slowed but did not decline.

Local government employment has fared better than other government sectors, but the prolonged and uncertain recovery for local finances has forced sharp reductions in personnel in recent years, and continues to contribute to sluggish growth. As a result, local government has not regained jobs lost during the recession, currently at 521,000 jobs below peak levels (July 2008).

To better understand drivers of change in local government employment, we explore industry detail for the local government sector from BLS Current Employment Statistics. Local government employment has been buoyed by employment in specialized departments of city government including parks, local health care centers, libraries, housing authorities, public works and highway departments.

This “other local government” category, which does not include public safety, added more jobs between November and December (most recent data available) than other types of local government employment, likely due to weather-related service needs.

Local government jobs comprise 10% of all U.S. non-farm employment, and 64% of total government employment. In addition to the sheer size of the workforce and direct implications for services that affect our daily lives, local government jobs impact the quality of economic recovery because majority of local government jobs are higher and mid-wage.

We’ll be watching whether the recent gains in the private sector can propel the economy, and government employment, forward.