State and local government job growth lags as economy recovers


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(The Center Square) – As the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, the return of jobs in much of the public workforce continues to lag.

According to Pew Charitable Trusts, the number of noneducation state and local jobs, which includes workers in areas ranging from city parks to police forces, is down by more than 400,000 since the pandemic began.

The number of workers in local government in July 2021 compared with in July 2019 is down 6.9% in Illinois. State government job numbers were not available. Thirteen other states recorded declines of more than 5% in state and local government job losses over the same period.

Some of the hardest hit sectors for jobs that haven’t recovered include government-owned amusement, gambling and recreation, which is down 22.5%. Museums, zoos and parks is down 15.$% and information, including libraries is off 11.2%.

Mike Maciag, with Pew, said multiple factors have held back the rebound of these jobs. Temporary layoffs persist as many cities and states are still working on bringing back services that were scaled back during he pandemic. At the same time, more workers are leaving government, including retirements, and going to the private sector.

“Some private sector employers are sometimes able to offer more flexible remote work policies, and so generally speaking nationally, there are a lot of areas when the private sector is more flexible which may give them a leg up in competing for workers of government,” Maciag said.

Even governments with adequate budgets to hire are having difficulty filling positions. According to the analysis, some of the toughest jobs to fill are in health care, corrections and highway maintenance.

After the Great Recession, state and local government jobs were slower to rebound than private sector jobs. This time, budget woes are not to blame.

“From what we’ve been hearing, that isn’t the case this time,” Maciag said. “Perhaps there are some local governments that are dealing with ongoing budget pressures, but for the most part, this is not a budget-driven problem like after the Great Recession.”


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