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Employment on the rise, but agencies disagree on public sector employment figures

Employment on the rise, but agencies disagree on public sector employment figures

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
June 19, 2013
[post_thumbnail] Bob Fick, spokesperson for the Department of Labor, says Idaho employment is experiencing an increase.

The Idaho Department of Labor reports that the state’s employment picture appears to be slowly improving with private sector job creation leading the way amid public sector declines.

But statistics available on the Idaho controller’s website suggest that the number of state employees has risen slightly during the past couple of years, with one county official insisting that government employment remains robust in his region.

“We’ve gone from negative overall job growth over the course of the recession to pretty consistent year-over-year job growth,” said Bob Fick, spokesperson for the Idaho Department of Labor. “In 2008 and 2009 we saw negative job growth in the state, but things began to turn around in the fourth quarter of 2010.”

Fick told IdahoReporter.com that in October of that year, Idaho showed a one-tenth of 1 percent growth compared to October of 2009, and this development began a new trend. “By July of 2011 we were seeing year-over-year growth over 1 percent,” he said, noting that since that time it has not been uncommon to see monthly overall job growth in the high 1 percent range to low 2 percent range.

Fick also notes that government employment has dipped in recent years because of state, county and local government spending cuts. He also told IdahoReporter.com that during the next two months, government employment will likely show another decline in Idaho because of the “sequester” federal spending cuts.

But at least one county official believes differently about the employment picture where he lives. “There has not been one single job opening in our county that has not gone unfilled over the past two years,” said Jim Chmelik, a commissioner for Idaho County. “Add it all up, and government agencies employ more people than the private sector in our county. Whether it’s the federal Bureau of Land Management, the National Guard, the U.S. Post Office, or county and city agencies, government employment is dominant in Idaho County, which is unsustainable. And at our county facilities we have clearly not sustained job losses.”

Additionally, another state agency has data published on its website that is somewhat different than the Department of Labor's view of public sector jobs. According to the controller’s office, the number of state employees rose during 2012 and could be on track for another increase in 2013.

In a website section labeled “Transparent Idaho,” Controller Brandon Woolf’s office reports that in 2011 the number of Idaho state employees hit a seven-year low of 24,140. Yet the same report indicates that the number rose in 2012 to 24,383, and thus far in 2013 state government agencies employ 24,710 persons.

A spokesperson from Woolf’s office was uncertain whether the published “employee” figures accounted for actual full-time jobs or merely a number of employees, noting that a part-time worker is not counted equivalently as a full-time worker, yet both part-time and full-time jobs are factors in an overall jobs’ count.

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