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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 20, 2011 at 9:40 AM

State’s jobs engine has a new monkey wrench tossed in

There’s no way to spin Washington’s September jobs numbers in a “positive” light. I’m positive that government budget cuts are proving to be yet another drag on any recovery for the labor market. The state lost a net 18,400 jobs last month. Of these, as my colleague Sanjay Bhatt reports, 10,800 represented government positions, especially among teachers. The same is happening nationwide, with Oregon reporting 600 jobs lost last month, dragged down by government cutbacks.

Pay no attention to the move down in the “official” unemployment rate. This is likely a statistical fluke representing discouraged workers dropping out of the regular count. Any revisions will be minor. The point is that the private sector is not stepping up to fill the void from continuing cuts at the state and local level.

Deadbeats? No. The latest federal Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey shows that it’s even harder to find a job. The number of job openings in August actually decreased by 157,000 to 3.1 million, no improvement since last March.

According to Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, “The ratio of unemployed workers to job openings was thus 4.6-to-1 in August, a deterioration from the July ratio of 4.3-to-1. By comparison, in December 2000 the job seeker’s ratio was 1.1-to-1. Furthermore, the highest this ratio ever got in the early 2000s downturn was 2.8-to-1. August marks three years straight that the job seeker’s ratio has been at or above 3-to-1. Put another way: we’ve exceeded the highest level reached in the early 2000s recession for the last three years straight.”

PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates that 290,000 people lost public-sector jobs nationally between December 2009 and June 2011. No wonder the magazine Personnel Today reports, “The scale and speed of job cuts in the public sector have been far more severe than initially predicted and are on course to exceed the Government’s estimate of 400,000 job losses by 2016.”

So much for the benefits of “austerity.” In the Great Depression, the New Deal put people to work in the public sector until the private labor market could heal. Now the message from D.C. is, You’re on your own.

And Don’t Miss: Obama Still Flush With Cash From Financial Sector, Despite Frosty Relations || Washington Post

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Flat tax, 999

Just other ways to give love

To the 1 percent

Comments | More in Jobs/Unemployment

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