FOR THE RIGHT, IT’S A FEATURE, NOT A BUG…. In April, the private sector added 268,000 jobs, while the public sector lost 24,000.

So far in 2011, the private sector has added 854,000 jobs, while the public sector has lost 86,000 jobs.

Over the past year, the private sector has added 1.7 million jobs, while the public sector has lost 404,000 jobs.

Looking at the larger trend, the overall situation is clearly improving. An economy that was shrinking is now growing. An economy that was losing jobs is now creating jobs. Based on the latest data, the job market is now at its strongest point in five years, and while that’s not good enough, it is heartening.

But the larger trend also reminds us that the job picture would be even better were it not for conservative economic policies that are causing so many job losses in the public sector.

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty recently claimed that “the only booming ‘industry’” in the Obama era is the public sector, while the private sector has lost jobs. That’s not only backwards, that’s hopelessly insane.

As Matt Yglesias reminds us this morning, Republicans have little to complain about.

[A]nother issue is simply that this is the recovery conservatives say they want. The balance of economic activity is shifting away from the public sector and toward the private sector. So why is it that we have people running around the country — not just ignorant grassroots folks or talk show entrepreneurs, but billionaire political organizers like David Koch — screaming about incipient socialism?

It’s within the government’s power to intervene and prevent these public-sector layoffs at the state and local level. Indeed, in 2009, Democrats did just that, and it immediately helped improve the nation’s economy.

It’s no longer an option because Republicans reject such a move on ideological grounds. Worse, according to GOP leaders, the goal is to expand this approach, and make public-sector layoffs even worse, on purpose. Remember Speaker Boehner’s “So be it” line? It was in response to a question about deliberately making unemployment worse by laying off hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

For the GOP, the loss of public-sector jobs is a feature, not a bug. It’s not a development to lament, it’s a development to duplicate and expand.

If Americans disapprove, and want to see fewer layoffs, they shouldn’t have elected a Republican House.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.