Pandemic continues to take a toll on public sector employment

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on public sector employment. While the federal government is largely unaffected, state and local governments continue to shed jobs at a rapid clip.

State and local government payrolls shed 182,000 jobs in September, according to the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Federal employment ticked down by 34,000 jobs, but that was largely driven by exiting temporary Census workers.

On a year-over-year basis, the figures are striking. In September 2019, BLS reported 1.8% unemployment among public sector workers. In September 2020, that jumped to 4.1%.

The overall unemployment rate declined slightly, to 7.9%, with the economy adding 661,000 jobs in September. But permanent job loss outstripped temporary layoffs, suggesting that the employment recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting effects even if the spread of the virus is checked through a vaccine or public health measures.

Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, called for the Senate to take up a new round of pandemic stimulus and relief that includes funding for state and local governments.

The House of Representatives passed a revised $2.2 trillion relief bill on Thursday by a vote of 214-207. No Republicans supported the bill and 18 Democrats also opposed the measure.

"Even though this bill doesn't include everything we believe is necessary, it represents another good faith effort to work across the aisle to ensure that millions of Americans get the economic lifeline they desperately need," Saunders said in an Oct. 2 statement. "And it invests in the public services – including health care, child care and sanitation – we need to beat this pandemic and safely reopen the economy."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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