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The government is struggling to hire

Data: BLS via Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter; Graphic: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

“We’re losing staff and we’re unable to replace them,” a New Jersey teacher told Axios, helping to explain what’s happening with the resumption of government jobs — she’s lagging behind.

Driving the news: While the number of jobs in the private sector has surpassed its pre-pandemic level, there are 664,000 fewer people employed in the public sector, according to the government’s jobs report released on Friday.

Why is this important: Government employers are competing for workers in an extremely tight labor market, and they have less to offer: jobs generally pay less, to start with.

  • “The Postal Service and public schools cannot afford workers a higher salary,” Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, said in an email to Axios. “People have fled the public sector for the private sector, where signing bonuses and faster wage growth have been much more accessible.”

Details: Government budgets set salary ranges, which are harder to change in response to competition.

  • And while private sector employers offer hybrid and remote options, government work is generally not as flexible.
  • Meanwhile, in some areas, like education, the post-pandemic landscape is making it much harder to do the job – more on that below.

The big picture: After the Great Recession, public employment also took longer to recover, but for a different reason: State and local governments ran out of cash because tax revenues fell and the federal government cut funding. .

  • That shouldn’t be a problem now — the federal government has given plenty of stimulus dollars, and last year’s economic growth has generated windfall tax revenues.
  • There are an unusually high number of federal, state and local government job openings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Workforce Turnover Survey.
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, JOLTS via Fred;  Graphic: Axios Visuals
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, JOLTS via Fred; Graphic: Axios Visuals

Enlarge: Teachers are a good case study — education jobs make up the bulk of state and local government employment — and they’re not doing so well.

  • The middle school teacher, who asked not to be named, said they teach children with more behavioral problems, haunted by the specter of gun violence and bullied by increasingly angry parents .
  • “Teachers today navigate the threat of school shootings, a pandemic, and intensifying political interference in their lesson plans — while their salaries stagnate,” wrote Erica Pandey and Alison Snyder of Axios last month, explaining the crisis.

And after: States are taking action to address shortages.

  • Arizona just passed a law allowing schools to hire teachers before they graduate from college nearly a third of teaching positions were vacant in January, reports Julia Shapero of Axios.

The bottom line: “My husband works in the tech industry, and they pay recent college grads $120,000 to get started,” the college professor said via an exchange of messages on Twitter. “Who wants to teach for $50,000, especially if he has student loans and the added risk of being hit or shot in the building. My husband has never broken up a fight or been insulted by a teenager.”

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