Private-sector job growth

PRIVATE-SECTOR JOB GROWTH…. In the previous post, we talked about the new monthly jobs report, with the chart we’ve all come to know and love. But following up on the tradition we started last month, many of you have emailed to suggest it’s time for a slightly different chart — one showing just the private sector job market.

To be clear, public-sector jobs count, and it’s absurd to suggest otherwise. When workers lose their jobs, it’s devastating for them, and it undermines economic growth for everyone — whether the job was paid for by taxpayers or not. The problem is, the rise and fall of Census Bureau jobs can offer a skewed picture — some months, such as May 2010, look better than they should, because the monthly total is exaggerated by hundreds of thousands of Census jobs. Other months, such as June 2010, are distorted in the other direction, looking worse than they should.

Of course, those who work for the Census Bureau count, too, and those who’ve lost these temp jobs will obviously want to find new employment. The point is, the gain and loss of these Census jobs were predictable and set out in advance, and don’t really tell us much about the larger employment landscape.

In September, the economy lost 159,000 jobs from the public sector — about half of which came from the loss of temporary Census workers. At the same time, the private sector added 64,000 jobs, which is down from the previous month, and not even close to what we’d like to see from the economy, but the total was largely in line with expectations.

It was the ninth consecutive month of private-sector growth, tepid and underwhelming though it may be. All told, the economy has added 863,000 private-sector jobs in 2010*. For comparison purposes, note that the economy lost nearly 4.7 million private-sector jobs in 2009, and lost 3.8 million in 2008.

With that in mind, here is a different homemade chart, showing monthly job losses/gains in the private sector since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction — red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.


* Update: I originally understated the annual totals by 10,000, and the post is now corrected.