The Public Sector Recession
Most regular folks and media pundits seem to assume that the public sector is recession-proof – hence all those nasty calls for wage freezes, cuts and pension rollbacks on the part of supposedly cosseted government workers from the CFIB and other right-wingers.
In point of fact, it’s a myth.
Since October, 2008 – when employment began to fall – through February, 2009, we have lost 295,000 jobs, of which 290,000 were employee jobs. Of those lost employee jobs, 82,000 or 28% were in the public sector. That’s a disproportionate hit. In fact, we lost 2.4% of public sector employee jobs, compared to 1.9% of private sector employee jobs.
What’s going on? It’s a bit hard to tell since public sector jobs are scattered through many industries, including transportation and utilities, for example, where the private sector dominates. But the industry data do show a large job loss in (mainly public sector) educational services of 44,000 or 3.7% of the October, 2008 jobs, on top of a 23,000 or 2.5% job loss in public administration which represents direct government employment.
The local papers I read report major layoffs by the City of Ottawa, and I hear of job cuts at local universities in response to pension shortfalls and collapsed endowment funds. The national papers I read report big job cuts in New Brunswick because of spending cuts in the provincial Budget to fund tax cuts.
So, it looks like, myths aside, public and private sector workers are in pretty much the same foundering boat.
(Data above are from the Labour Force Survey, seasonally adjusted)