Cut Loose: State and Local Layoffs of Public Employees in the Current Recession

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

Cut Loose: State and Local Layoffs of Public Employees in the Current Recession

Analysis by Matt Sherman and Nathan Lane

WASHINGTON - In the current recession, millions of Americans have lost their
jobs. Unemployment has increased nationwide to levels not witnessed
since the 1980s. Much of the job loss has occurred in private
industries, but the public sector has also felt the sting of layoffs.
Decreasing tax revenues and expanding budget deficits have forced
public officials to make difficult decisions regarding their payroll.
According to our analysis, more than 110,000 jobs have been shed from
state and local governments in the last two years. This number includes
over 40,000 teachers as well as nearly 4,000 uniformed police officers
and firefighters.1

Certain regions of the country have been more heavily impacted by the
current economic downturn, and their state and local governments have
experienced proportionally more job loss, than others (see Figure 1 and Table 1
below). The most populous states have suffered the most. The five
largest states - California, Florida, Michigan, New York, and Illinois
- account for nearly half of the public sector job loss nationwide. In
California alone, extended deliberation over the government's budget
has resulted in nearly 28,000 layoffs, including more than 13,000
teachers.

Within states, big
cities have experienced the most concentrated job loss. In the state of
Nevada, the number of teachers, city workers, and university employees
in Las Vegas who have been laid off account for more than half of the
state's public sector job loss. In Alabama, Birmingham's Jefferson
County has closed several offices and laid off more than 1,000
employees - about a quarter of its workforce. The county's sheriff
described the situation as an "unnatural disaster" when he requested
that troops from the National Guard be sent in to help patrol the
streets.2 
In New York, after publicly revealing a "doomsday budget" that included
23,000 job cuts, the mayor and the city council of New York City
eliminated about 2,000 jobs from the city's workforce.3 
To be sure, some states and localities have been relatively shielded
from the effects of the current recession. In eleven states, total
public sector job loss was less than 100 jobs, but these include many
of the least populous states. In general, the heavy population centers
are experiencing the most pain.

FIGURE 1
The Ten U.S. States with the Most Public Sector Layoffs Since 2008

One factor that has reduced the number of layoffs in some areas has
been the injection of federal stimulus money. In Indianapolis Public
Schools, 300 teachers were rehired after they were laid off with the
use of federal stimulus aid.4  In Montgomery County, Maryland, 200 teaching jobs were restored with stimulus money.5  And in Boston, federal grant money was able to save 50 jobs in the police department.6

However, job loss numbers do not tell the whole story. Several states
have issued hiring freezes and mandated pay cuts in their departments.
Others have offered buyout schemes in order to encourage more senior
employees to retire early.7 
Still more states have instituted furlough plans in order to cut costs
in their budget. In Hawaii, on top of 1,339 announced layoffs, the
government has mandated that state workers take three unpaid days of
leave per month, for two years. In some states, such as New Jersey and
Connecticut, public employee unions have agreed to accept these
furlough plans in exchange for a guarantee of no layoffs.8 
In the end, all these cost-cutting measures, whether they involve
layoffs or not, impose real economic burdens on the livelihoods of
public employees.

Despite all
of the budget cuts that have already been endured, current projections
indicate that the situation is only going to get worse. Research from
the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that 48 out of 50
states face budget shortfalls through fiscal year 2010, and the total
budget shortfall for the country is expected to expand further in the
future. States such as Ohio and Louisiana are dipping into their "rainy
day" reserve funds in order to balance their budgets, but these funds
are finite and could be exhausted before the national economy turns
around. Should these projections prove to come true, state and local
governments will be forced again to make another round of difficult
decisions regarding the jobs and salaries of teachers, police officers,
firefighters, correctional officers, and other government employees.

TABLE 1
Total Reported Layoffs of Public Sector Employees, by State and Metropolitan Area

 

Alabama

3,311

 

Missouri

1,662

     Birmingham

1,363

 

     St. Louis

973

Alaska

42

 

Montana

16

Arizona

4,278

 

Nebraska

394

     Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale

1,598

 

Nevada

2,170

Arkansas

NR*

 

     Las Vegas

1,053

California

27,870

 

New Hampshire

444

     Los Angeles-Orange County

8,175

 

New Jersey

1,433

     San Francisco-Oakland

3,482

 

New Mexico

3

     Riverside-San Bernardino

2,238

 

New York

6,015

     Sacramento

1,336

 

     New York City

3,526

     Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura

1,265

 

North Carolina

3,824

     Bakersfield

564

 

     Charlotte

1,341

     Santa Rosa

520

 

     Raleigh

655

     San Diego

495

 

North Dakota

NR*

Colorado

1,046

 

Ohio

3,584

Connecticut

861

 

     Cincinnati

416

Delaware

8

 

Oklahoma

2

Florida

7,216

 

Oregon

2,741

     Miami-Ft. Lauderdale

3,520

 

     Portland

750

Georgia

1,344

 

Pennsylvania

947

     Atlanta

499

 

Rhode Island

923

Hawaii

1,339

 

South Carolina

255

Idaho

333

 

South Dakota

36

Illinois

5,515

 

Tennessee

2,556

     Chicago

3,152

 

     Knoxville

563

Indiana

792

 

     Memphis

523

Iowa

677

 

Texas

5,076

Kansas

1,233

 

     Galveston

2,650

Kentucky

1,282

 

     Dallas-Fort Worth

1,931

Louisiana

1,269

 

Utah

178

Maine

512

 

Vermont

118

Maryland

1,221

 

Virginia

1,869

Massachusetts

3,805

 

     Washington-Arlington

1,975

     Boston

1,347

 

Washington

2,626

Michigan

6,452

 

     Seattle-Tacoma

1,784

     Detroit

3,390

 

West Virginia

6

Minnesota

1,641

 

Wisconsin

1,212

     Minneapolis-St. Paul

731

 

Wyoming

47

Mississippi

57

 

District of Columbia

868

 

 

 

TOTAL

111,109

 

NOTE:
These numbers represent a temporary snapshot of the employment picture;
they will require further revision as future events unfold.
*Indicates no reported layoffs (NR) in this state, according to our analysis.

###

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