If you read our blog or our report on how women are doing three years into the recovery, you know that public sector job losses are really slowing the recovery for women. For every 10 private sector jobs women have gained in the recovery, they’ve lost more than four public sector jobs.

But the impact of the unprecedented public sector job cuts we’ve seen recently is far broader. A new report from Brookings highlights these key facts:

  • Teachers (overwhelmingly women) experienced the largest number of public sector job losses. But the biggest percentage declines were in public safety jobs: emergency responders (-43.5%), air-traffic controllers (-28.5%), and fire fighters (-18.9%).
  • The percentage of workers employed in the public sector (federal, state and local) as a share of the population is at its lowest level in over 30 years.
  • If public sector employment had remained steady since the start of the recession, the economy would have an additional 1.7 million jobs and the unemployment rate would be 7.1 percent instead of 8.2 percent.

And public sector job cuts aren’t just hurting workers, their families, and the economy today. The Brookings report also looks at the long-term impact on the economy of the cuts in just one area – education. Fewer teachers mean more students per class: and recent research, cited in the report, finds that larger class sizes mean lower wages for today’s children when they join the workforce.

But the report goes further. It does a cost-benefit analysis, comparing how much we are “saving” in teacher salaries and benefits from teacher layoffs – $11.8 billion per year nationwide – to the lost earnings of the children whose education is being affected – $49.3 billion. As the authors conclude, “the foregone benefits are more than four times larger than the current budget savings!”

When Congress returns in September, it will decide whether to make even deeper cuts in state and local jobs and services – or avert these cuts by making the very wealthy and corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. 

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