Press Releases

News from EPI Women and African Americans hit hardest by job losses in state and local governments

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Contact: Phoebe Silag or Karen Conner, 202-775-8810

Women and African Americans hit hardest by job losses in state and local governments

While the private sector has experienced some job growth since the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, the public sector has continued to shed jobs. In fact, in 2011, state and local governments experienced the worst job decline on record. That decline is the topic of a new report, The public-sector jobs crisis, released today by the Economic Policy Institute, which finds that public-sector job losses have been particularly damaging for women and African Americans.

The public-sector jobs crisis: Women and African Americans hit hardest by job losses in state and local governments, by EPI experts David Cooper, Mary Gable, and Algernon Austin, explains the particular importance of public-sector jobs for women and African Americans, the progress that state and local governments have made in reducing wage and employment disparities, and how cuts to state and local budgets have disproportionately hurt these groups.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Historically, the state and local public sectors have provided more equitable opportunities for women and people of color. As a result, women and African Americans constitute a disproportionately large share of the state and local public-sector workforce.
  • Overall, the wage gap across genders is similar in the state and local public sectors and in the private sector. However, it is smaller for highly educated women employed in state and local government.
  • State and local public-sector workers of color face smaller wage disparities across racial lines, and at some levels of education actually enjoy a wage premium over similarly educated white workers.
  • The disproportionate share of women and African Americans working in state and local government has translated into higher rates of job loss for both groups in these sectors. Between 2007 (before the recession) and 2011, state and local governments shed about 765,000 jobs. Women and African Americans comprised about 70 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of those losses. Conversely, Hispanic employment in state and local public-sector jobs increased during this period (although most of that increase likely occurred in the lowest-paid jobs).
  • Job losses in the state and local public sectors stand in contrast to the jobs recovery in the private sector. From February 2010 (the month the labor market “bottomed out”) to January 2012, the United States experienced a net increase in total nonfarm employment of more than 3.2 million jobs, while state and local government employment fell by 438,000. Over this period, every major sector of the economy experienced net growth in jobs except the public sector.

“The federal government needs to step up its funding for infrastructure and school-modernization projects and target job-creation programs in hard-hit communities,” said co-author Mary Gable. “Such programs would go a long way in assisting women and African Americans.”

# # #