News: CJ Exclusives

Education Job Losses Remain Modest

Employment report at odds with Democrats’ predictions

The employment report released Tuesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce indicates that predictions by Gov. Bev Perdue and Democrats of massive public sector job losses as a result of Republican budget proposals were overblown.

For the past 10 months, the state’s Democrats have maintained that Republican budget proposals would lead to massive layoffs in public education. Perdue predicted 30,000 government jobs would disappear, as many as 18,000 of them in local public education. Democratic legislative leaders, the North Carolina Association of Educators, and left-leaning interest groups mirrored those concerns.

Year-to-year raw, unadjusted numbers by Commerce and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show a slight drop in government education employment over the past year — but not nearly the levels projected by Perdue, other Democrats, and liberal activists.

Overall government employment — federal, state, and local — dropped by 2,100 jobs over the past year in unadjusted terms, from 708,100 in January 2011 to 706,000 in January of this year.

Local government educational services — including PreK-12 public school teachers, administrators, and support staff — showed a drop of 2,600 jobs from January 2011 to January 2012. Jobs fell from 227,300 to 224,700 over that period. State government educational services, including public universities and community colleges, also reported 2,400 fewer jobs — from 107,300 last January to 104,900 this one.

Meantime, employment in PreK-12 private education increased over the past year. These jobs include positions at private schools and public charter schools. Even though charter schools receive public funding, the state classifies charter school employees as private workers.

Private educational services added 6,400 jobs over the past year — from 81,800 in January 2011 to 87,200 in January 2012. This category may reflect additional job growth over time as the state approves new charter schools and enrollment at existing charters expands.

Private higher education jobs shrank slightly over the past year, from 49,700 in January 2011 to 49,400 in January 2012.

The three Democrats angling for Perdue’s job — Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, former 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, and state Rep. Bill Faison of Orange County — have continued to criticize the impact on public education of the budget passed by the General Assembly over Perdue’s veto.

At the Wake County Democrats’ Valentine’s Day fundraiser, the News & Observer reported, Dalton said the Republicans’ approach of “laying off educators, laying off teachers, laying off faculty is the wrong direction” for education policy. Etheridge said Republican have “made war on teachers.” Faison said Republicans broke a promise not to fire teachers or teacher aides.

‘Benchmarked’ rate higher

Statewide, the January unemployment rate was 10.2 percent in seasonally adjusted terms, a 0.2 percentage point drop from December. But the unadjusted unemployment rate rose from 10.2 percent to 10.5 percent. The state lost nearly 73,000 jobs in the unadjusted count.

The seasonal adjustment factor is an estimate that attempts to remove seasonal effects from statistical reports, such as the beginning and end of the school year or the holiday shopping season. The not seasonally adjusted or unadjusted measure captures real-time estimates of the employment situation and may offer a better view of the current environment.

In most months, the state employment report comes out on the third Friday of the following month. The January report was delayed by several weeks to allow an annual reconciliation by BLS of the actual job count using quarterly reports of unemployment insurance payments by employers.

As a result of the “benchmarking,” the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for the entire year were revised upward. That’s why today the December rate was reported at 10.4 percent, when the initial report in January placed it at 9.9 percent. Unemployment rates from 2011 were increased between 0.2 and 0.8 percentage points, depending on the month. (See PDFs of the front pages of the December 2011 and January 2012 reports.)

Using both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted measures, the state’s January unemployment rate is higher than the national rate — by 1.9 points and 1.7 points, respectively.

Rick Henderson is managing editor of Carolina Journal.