State and Local Government Make Slow Jobs Gains in August

State and local governments are incrementally working back toward the employment levels they saw before the pandemic, but one organization points out that many job losses have been permanent.

According to new federal data, state and local government in August continued a slow regaining of jobs lost at the height of the recession — but still remain far below their usual levels.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found about 63,000 more people working in local government in August than in July, an increase of about 1 percent. That growth rate was on pace with the economy at large.

State government, education and U.S. Postal Service employment all saw small month-over-month changes of less than 1 percent.

Compared with the same month a year ago, however, local government jobs were down 386,000 — about 6 percent.

State jobs, not including education, were up slightly over that period.

In an analysis of the jobs report, the National Association of Counties pointed out that since March, permanent layoffs have been increasing while temporary layoffs have decreased. That suggests that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is inflicting more and more long-term damage on all sectors of employment.

“Overall, the August jobs report reveals a national economy that displays indicators of recovery, but is largely unstable,” the analysis reads.

NACo has been advocating for more direct aid to local governments through federal relief packages, an issue that has become somewhat contentious between lawmakers.

The spike in federal employment in August is due to the Census Bureau’s mass hiring of temporary workers.

For further analysis of adjusted versus unadjusted numbers, see our regularly updated tracking article on government employment.

Previous months of analysis: July, June, May, April

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.