Private-sector job growth can’t offset public-sector losses

PRIVATE-SECTOR JOB GROWTH CAN’T OFFSET PUBLIC-SECTOR LOSSES…. The monthly employment picture from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is starting to look repetitious. September’s totals were published this morning, and the new report looks a lot like the last few reports — the private sector is slowly adding jobs, but we can’t get our head above water because of the loss in the public sector.

The economy shed 95,000 nonfarm jobs in September, the Labor Department reported Friday, with most of the decline the result of the layoffs by local governments and of temporary decennial Census workers.

The steep drop was far worse than economists had been predicting.

While total government jobs fell by 159,000, private sector companies added 64,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate, which measures the percentage of workers who are actively looking for but unable to find jobs, stayed flat at 9.6 percent.

The difference between the public and private sectors continues to be significant. Like the last several months, it’s the loss of public-sector jobs, mostly from the wind-down of the Census, that brings the overall total into the negative. The addition of 64,000 private-sector jobs obviously needs to get much stronger, but at least the sector isn’t losing jobs. What’s more, it’s the ninth consecutive months of job growth in the private sector, a streak we haven’t seen in a long while.

As a political matter, this is the last monthly jobs report before the midterm elections, and it’s very likely Republicans will characterize it as evidence that they’re right. They’re not. Had it not been for the Recovery Act, the job numbers would be dramatically worse, and the loss of many public-sector jobs is preventable, except Republicans have fought and blocked any efforts to prevent these losses.

Once again, here’s the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month (or in this case, the second, since last Friday was the 1st), showing monthly job losses 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.

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