After several years of bad employment news in the education sector, today’s jobs report suggests that school districts are starting to hire again. But, this good news for students, teachers, communities, and the economy comes with several caveats, as I explain below.
New and newly revised data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that local school districts added 5,000 jobs in February. State colleges and universities added 2,000 more. That’s on top of the 15,000 education jobs added in January, according to BLS’s revised numbers. This is the first time since late 2009 that the nation’s schools have added jobs for two months in a row.
As for the caveats:
First, state and local government employment outside of education, which includes law enforcement, parks, transportation, and so on, fell by 7,000 jobs. So, even with an increase in education, state and local employment in aggregate was flat.
Second, when it comes to aggregate state and local employment, we still have a long way to go in order to recoup the job cuts of recent years. States, localities, universities, and school districts have cut 647,000 jobs since overall state and local employment peaked in August 2008 (see graph).
Third, even as the number of state and local employees has fallen, the need for the services they provide has risen. There are more students in public schools and in public colleges and universities, so these institutions need more personnel just to accommodate the rise in the number of students that they teach. The number of participants in various public programs has grown as well — as has the entire U.S. population, which relies on states and localities to provide health, transportation, public safety, and other services.