"Each time there was a recession with a Republican president," he said, "we compensated by making sure that government didn't see a drastic reduction in employment."
If governments still employed the same percentage of the work force as they did in 2009, the unemployment rate would be a percentage point lower, according to an analysis by Moody's Analytics. At the pace so far this year, layoffs will siphon off $15 billion in spending power. Yale University economists have said that if state and local governments had followed the pattern of previous recessions, they would have added at least 1.4 million jobs.
Conservatives have argued that governments were bloated after a hiring surge during the housing boom and are now returning to a more appropriate size. Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, criticized the president's budget proposal to give states an additional $30 billion for teachers, police officers and firefighters. "Those new public sector jobs must be paid for with more debt and taxes borne by the private sector," he wrote.
But those with disappearing jobs say that the effects are not just economic -- they mean longer response times to fires, larger class sizes and in some cases lawsuits when short-staffed agencies are unable to provide the required services.
After 32 firefighters were laid off in Muncie, Indiana, the area that could be reached by firefighters within eight minutes was cut in half, said Mike Whited, the president of the firefighters union. A federal grant restored 25 workers, but the city does not know whether it will be renewed.
Mr. Whited chafed at portrayals of public workers as overpaid or greedy, saying his union and others had made concessions, including paying more for their health insurance and forfeiting raises. "I think a lot of people don't understand what we do," he said. "They're looking for somebody to blame, and I think they're being led the wrong way."
Businesses can also be hindered by government cuts. They not only lose prospective middle-class customers but may face long waits for services. Roland Pott, a real estate broker and developer in Trenton, said that fewer city inspectors adds to construction delays. And the shortage of police officers means he has to assuage the safety concerns of prospective tenants. "It makes it harder to lease a space or market a space because people are choosing between Trenton or another area," he said.
Even if the overall economy improves, local governments are likely to lag behind. Property tax receipts, which are projected to fall slightly in 2012, "will be weak through at least fiscal 2014," Daniel White, an economist at Moody's Analytics, wrote in a report this month. "As a result, local government fiscal conditions will remain under pressure."
Jobs in education have accounted for more than half the losses in local governments. Teachers and other school employees continue to receive layoff notices in California, Colorado, Nevada and Ohio, among others. In Los Angeles, about 11,700 teachers and others were notified in the spring. On Saturday, the teachers union ratified an agreement to save more than 4,000 jobs by taking furlough days.
To close a $64 million budget gap, the district in Clark County, Nevada, which encompasses Las Vegas, sent layoff notices to 400 teachers this month and will not fill 600 openings.
In Cleveland, the school district cited a $66 million budget deficit when announcing the layoff of more than 500 teachers this spring. David Quolke, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union, said the announcement followed two years of cutbacks and $25 million in concessions from the union. He said that some classes would have more than 40 children.
Kimili Gulley, 32, has been teaching middle and high school mathematics for nine years and expected her tenure to provide protection. But this month, she too is out of work. "So much emphasis is put on educating kids," she said, "and yet funding is getting cut when it comes to educating kids. So it's kind of hypocritical."
As published in the International Herald Tribune
An article on Thursday about increasing layoffs in local government misstated the number of government jobs lost since the postrecession peak in April 2009. It was 706,000 -- not 657,000, the number of jobs lost since May 2009.
Most Popular Stories
- Stolen Cobalt-60 Recovered in Mexico
- Hezbollah Chief's Assassination Claimed by Sunni Group
- Sarmiento to Handle Greeley Latin Ops
- Allstate Seeks to Invest in Minority Firms
- First-time Jobless Claims Drop Below 300,000
- SpaceX's Satellite Launch Is 'Game-Changer'
- White House Pushes to Extend Unemployment Benefits
- Wind Power and Wildlife Can Coexist
- Latin Music Conference Turns 25
- Calif. Likes Christie, Says Tea Party's a Drag