WASHINGTON Jan 4 Local U.S. governments cut
jobs for the fourth straight month in December, including 11,000
in public schools, dragging down the nation's fragile economic
recovery, jobs data showed on Friday.
Local government jobs are now at their lowest level since
October 2005, with the bulk of the decline coming from layoffs
of teachers and other school employees, according to the Labor
For more than a year, persistent declines in public sector
employment - particularly at the city, county and school
district level - have stood in contrast to steady job gains in
the private sector.
Jan Eberly, the U.S. Treasury assistant secretary for
economic policy, said recent improvements in state budgets may
start to reverse some of the declines next year.
"There is some expectation that state and local budgets will
start to improve as the economy is picking up, and we're seeing
improvements in many states, though not in all states," Eberly
told reporters on Friday.
Overall government employment in the United States fell by
13,000 last month, the Labor Department said. Those jobs were
almost all lost in public schools. Local governments shed 11,000
school jobs, and local agencies outside of schools had 2,200
more job losses.
State governments, meanwhile, added 4,000 jobs while federal
government jobs fell by 3,000 in December, according to the
State and local government spending grew at a 0.3 percent
annual rate in the third quarter, after 11 straight quarters of
contraction, the Commerce Department reported last month. But
many states, cities and counties are planning to keep spending
flat as they continue to face uncertainty about federal funding
levels and revenues.
Since August 2008, local governments have shed some 300,000
teaching and other school jobs, raising fears the layoffs could
hurt students' education. Typically, schools try to avoid
cutting jobs in the middle of the school year, and make most of
their staffing changes in the summer.
The figures are also a worrisome sign that local budgets are
still stuck in a slump. State governments have added 24,000 jobs
since last December, but local governments have cut more than
double that number in the past year.
The 2009 federal economic stimulus measure helped offset
states' budget gaps resulting from the recession. But with the
money now gone, state aid squeezed and tax revenues low, states
have chipped away at their public safety and education
"(We) remain hopeful that President (Barack) Obama and the
113th Congress, as well as governors, will prioritize our
students and public education and work hard to stave off further
cuts," said Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National
Education Association, the largest U.S. teachers' union.