State and local governments have cut fewer jobs than the private sector during the recession, but public education is still facing its worst job losses in 30 years, according to a report.
State and local government employment tends to be more stable than private sector employment, and rarely declines in recessions, according to the report published on Friday by the Rockefeller Institute of Government.
Still, U.S. state and local governments employ around twice as many workers as the country's manufacturing and construction sectors combined, so layoffs are a concern given fears that high U.S. unemployment could lead to a double-dip recession.
State and local government employment fell in April through June in 31 states when compared to the year before. Private sector employment, meanwhile, was down in 44 states, the report said.
The institute relies on seasonally unadjusted data from the federal government.
State government employment is down 0.8 percent from its peak after the last recession and local government is down 1.4 percent. Private sector employment has fallen more than double that at 6.8 percent, the institute found.
"The state and local government declines, while widespread, are nowhere near as large or as numerous as the declines in private sector employment," the New York-based research group said.
Local government employment is at least two to three times as large as state government and accounts for the largest number of government jobs lost, it said.
School employees have borne the brunt of the decline.
"The decline in education employment is far greater in this recession than in other recent recessions, and is comparable to declines in the 1980 double-dip recession," the report said. "With states continuing to face harsh fiscal realities, declines in education employment are likely just beginning."
State and local governments at first attempted to close budget gaps by furloughing employees but found eliminating positions to be more cost effective.
As school districts start classes this fall they are turning to lay-offs and hiring freezes. The $862 billion federal stimulus plan passed last year included billions of dollars sent to states for education jobs. The plan expires in December, prompting many to warn of drastic spending cuts.
In early July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a defense spending bill that included $10 billion for school jobs. Because the House added nonmilitary spending before passing the war bill, the measure must return to the Senate, which already passed its own bill for supporting troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If the measure survives the Senate, there is still a chance President Barack Obama will veto the entire piece of legislation because it would redirect $500 million for schools from his Race to the Top education reform program to cover the education jobs.
Without the $10 billion the U.S. will lose 100,000 to 300,000 jobs, according to White House Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer.
Other measures to help states and local governments have largely stalled in Congress. Next week a coalition of city and county groups will come to Washington to press for funds to help them sidestep employment and service cuts.
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