Back-to-School Blues

State budget cuts appear to be taking a toll on workers in the public education sector: As California’s students headed back to school this fall, thousands fewer school employees returned with them. The number of jobs in public educational services – which includes jobs at public schools from the elementary to the university level, as well as jobs at the California Department of Education and California State Library – fell by 12,100 (1.1 percent) between September 2008 and September 2009, according to the latest Employment Development Department data. This drop reflects a loss of 15,200 jobs in “local government educational services” – primarily jobs in K-12 public schools and community colleges – offset by a gain of 3,100 jobs in “state government educational services,” which includes jobs in the California State University and University of California systems and at the California Department of Education. The recent decline in public education employment comes after a modest gain of 8,300 jobs (0.7 percent) between September 2007 and September 2008.

Recent job losses in California’s public education sector are part of a national trend. The number of US jobs in public education fell by 1.2 percent between September 2008 and September 2009 – the largest percentage decrease in the nation’s September public educational services jobs since record-keeping began in the mid-1950s. In contrast, the recent decline in California’s public educational services employment was only one-third as large, in percentage terms, as the drop in this sector between September 2002 and September 2003.

Employment in California’s private educational services sector has also started to diminish as the recession wears on. The state lost 700 private education jobs (0.2 percent) between September 2008 and September 2009, after a gain of 8,600 jobs (3.0 percent) in the prior year. Nationally, private educational services employment rose modestly – by 0.1 percent – between September 2008 and September 2009.

Some analysts speculate that the unemployment rate for women may start to “catch up” to the jobless rate for men if the private educational services sector and the government sector – which includes public education – continue to lose a large number of jobs, since women disproportionately work in the field of education. Thus far, the rise in unemployment for California’s men has outpaced that for women since male-dominated sectors of the economy, such as construction, have experienced the deepest job losses.

— Alissa Anderson

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