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June 14, 2012

Only a Government Worker Could Believe the Private Sector is "Doing Fine"

The public sector, on the other hand, is doin' great.

[U]nemployment rates have been consistently and substantially lower in the public sector than in the private sector. The recession and its aftermath are no exception. Last month, government workers had the lowest unemployment rate (4.2 percent) of any class of worker categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The next lowest unemployment rate, 4.9 percent, is for workers in the burgeoning energy industry. Construction workers, by contrast, are unemployed at nearly three times the rate of government workers.

Public employees tend to be more educated and experienced than the average private-sector worker, so one could argue that government workers just naturally have lower unemployment rates. The figure above tests this possibility, comparing public-sector unemployment rates with the unemployment rates of comparably skilled workers in the private sector over time. In other words, the private-sector line shows the unemployment rate that a typical public worker might face if he took his skills to the private sector.

Much of the difference between the two lines — an average of 3.3 percentage points over the past eleven years — is likely to reflect a perk of government work, one that public employees have enjoyed for a long time. That the gap narrowed slightly in 2011 — after exploding since 2008 — isn’t evidence that the private sector is “doing fine” and the public sector is ailing.

Not convinced yet? Okay, how about you just add up all the wages earned in each sector. This measures lost wages from unemployed folks, as well as wage stagnation (or wage growth). It's the sum total grand-poobah stat -- here's the money flowing into that sector.

While all sectors show net increases (natural effect of inflation), the public sector is wildly outpacing gains in the private sector -- especially the federal public sector.

But state and local governments saw greater payroll growth (10.8 and 8.5 percent respectively) than the private sector (6.4 percent), and the federal government grew most impressively of all (20.6 percent).

Jay Cost put this starkly a few days ago: Obama wants to take money from Republican clients (general taxpayers) to give it to Democratic clients (public sector workers).

Strip all the rhetoric and appeals to emotion and reason; this is election is simply about taking money from Republican voters to give it to Democratic voters.

The question is that simple.

The answer is even simpler.

The answer is "no."

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posted by Ace at 04:45 PM

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