Ronald Johnson is a mathematical statistician in
the Office of Prices and Living Conditions, U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Public and private sector jobs and the Great
Public Jobs and Political Agendas: The Public Sector in an
Era of Economic Stress. By Daniel J.B. Mitchell, Ithaca, NY,
Cornell University Press, 2012, 255 pages, $29.95/
Since the founding of this nation, every decade has
experienced at least one official recession or depression.
The Great Depression of August 1929–March 1933 is
considered to be the worst economic downturn ever, and
the Great Recession of December 2007–June 2009 the
worst recession since the Great Depression; even today,
more than 4 years after the official end of the Great
Recession, unemployment remains stubbornly high and
economic growth slow. When the Great Recession hit,
private companies were forced to initiate mass layoffs,
while at the same time the federal government and some
state and local governments actually increased their
employment numbers. These divergent trends raised
serious discussions about how the Great Recession
affected public versus private sector jobs. This book is a
compilation of nine articles on that topic.
In the first article, titled “Effects of Deep Recession on
Public Sector Pay, Benefits, and Employment,” David
Lewin, a UCLA professor, writes about the effects of the
Great Recession on public sector pay, benefits, and
employment, while also making comparisons with the
private sector. Lewin suggests that the private sector is
more sensitive to macroeconomic (i.e., business) cycles
than the public sector. Whereas private sector pay and
benefits fall during recessions and rise during recoveries,
he states that public sector pay and benefits typically rise in
both cases, unless the recession is a deep one.
Nevertheless, looking at various studies, Lewin concludes
U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
MONTHLY LABOR REVIEW
that public sector em