August 21, 2009 1:30PM

State and Local Government Employment Up Since Recession’s Start

Yesterday, the Rockefeller Institute released a report on state and local government employment since the beginning of the recession. It found:

Private sector employment for the nation as a whole has fallen by 6.9 million jobs between the December 2007 start of the recession and July 2009. Over the same period, state and local government employment has risen by 110 thousand jobs or 0.6 percent, with increases in both state governments and local governments.

With a prolonged recession now forcing state and local governments to actually cut or furlough some employees, it’s important to remember that they were adding government jobs at a time when it was clear to the rest of the country that the air was out of the economic bubble. In other words, taxpayers should have no sympathy for posturing politicians and their apologists warning of Armageddon should taxes not be increased to facilitate the continuance of bloated state and local governments. Also, expect to hear claims that getting rid of government employees will somehow hinder an economic recovery. In fact, getting rid of government employees — and the programs they support — would be good for the long‐​run health of the economy.

A government employee is inherently parasitic because without the “host” — i.e., taxpayers — their job would not exist. One can debate the degree to which a government employee’s work benefits society, but the fact remains that any benefit comes at a cost to the economy given that productive individuals and businesses are taxed to pay for government jobs. This should be obvious. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon these days to hear intelligent people embrace increasing government employment during a recession to “make up” for job losses in the private sector. One need only spend some time working in government, as I have, to recognize that an economic resurgence will not be fueled by increasing the government employee‐​to‐​host ratio.