The past five years have been an era of austerity in local government employment. In some states, as I will show when I finish compiling Census Bureau data on state and local government finances, tax revenues have fallen relative to income even as pension costs – due to past taxpayer underfunding – have soared. In other states the tax burden has increased, but rising pension and other retirement costs, due to retroactive pension increases scored by politically powerful public employee unions, have forced cuts in active employees even so. In either case public service recipients have been pushed to the back of the bus if, in fact, the bus still runs at all.
A longer term perspective, however, shows that in the U.S. as a whole, and in the parts of New York State outside New York City, the cuts in local government employment over the past five years followed a long boom. During that period the number of people working for the government increased relative to those working in the private sector. Even after five years of cutback, the relationship between those who work for the government and those who carry it still favors the former.