The Private Jobs Recovery and the Public Slump

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Author’s analysis of BLS data.

Here’s a new look at something we haven’t considered for a while—the contrasting fates of the public sector and private sector labor markets.

It’s often hard to get these things on the same scale since obviously most work is done in the private sector. So what you have here is cumulative job losses since the beginning of the Obama administration in the private and public sectors. You see that initially the private sector slump is much worse, but it bottoms out in early 2010 and recrosses the zero line in 2012. Since then, the private sector has kept on growing—not at an extraordinarily rapid pace but certainly a respectable one. The public sector, by contrast, has been in a long, steady period of decline.

At first it was hard to distinguish that decline from the waxing and waning of the census bump, but it’s now become unmistakable. A decent share of that is postal workers who are in long-term decline, but it’s also just a broad-based decline in government employment, including something like an 8.4 percent reduction in the number of police officers in the country.