Cities Starting to Hire New Workers

August 5, 2013

Cities across the United States are starting to hire new teachers, firefighters and police officers as a deep and prolonged slide in local government employment appears to have bottomed out four years after the recession ended, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • Monthly jobs data from the Labor Department show local governments, which make up about 65 percent of the overall government workforce, added workers in seven of the past eight months, the longest such streak in five years.
  • So far this year, 46,000 new jobs have been created on a seasonally adjusted basis.
  • Local government employment through June stood at 14.08 million, the highest level in more than a year and a half, though still well below a peak of 14.61 million in mid-2008.

In previous recoveries, the overall government sector started adding jobs much sooner. Even now, federal agencies and state governments continue to shed jobs amid budget cuts and a broader debate over the proper size of public sector workforces.

In local governments, rebounding tax revenue, voter-approved tax hikes in some communities and a recovery in the broader U.S. economy are fueling hiring.

  • Municipal police academies in Massachusetts are running at capacity as communities train new officers, while Minneapolis recently added nearly two dozen firefighters, ending a five-year hiring freeze.
  • The school district for Clark County, Nev., which includes Las Vegas, is hiring 700 new teachers this year, the first sizable boost in its workforce in five years.

Some municipal jobs eliminated during the economic downturn aren't ever likely to return, even as tax revenue rebounds.

  • The towns of Springfield and Eugene, Ore., merged fire departments in 2010 and now save $1.3 million annually, according to Fire Chief Randall Groves.
  • The cities trimmed about 15 positions, including a fire chief, a fire marshal and a training chief, but did not cut the number of firefighters.
  • The state's teaching workforce shrank by 11 percent in the four years since 2009, and the share of elementary school classrooms with more than 30 students ballooned to 11 percent last year from 2.5 percent in 2009.

Source: Mark Peters and Stephanie Banchero, "Cities Begin Hiring Again," Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2013.

 

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