Are public sector employees on the endangered species list?

Posted on July 24, 2012


In today’s post by Buyers Meeting Point’s Kelly Barner (Austerity Measures: Coming to a Company Near You?), she talks about how “many governments in Europe are considering austerity measures,” and “reducing national debt by spending less, particularly on public service.”

Based on a recent article which indicated that since 2009 approximately 600,000 state and local jobs in the U.S. have been shed, it would be safe to conclude that such measures have already taken hold here in North America.

While Barner extends the austerity to the private sector and in particular B2B and B2C segments (by the way a very interesting read), the focus of this post is to determine whether or not public sector employees are indeed on the endangered species list.

Certainly the fact that private sector payrolls have been expanding during this same period of public sector decline (see graph below), lends some creditability to this assessment.  However, some might more reasonably conclude that instead of representing a decline, the shedding of public sector jobs is in reality a correction resulting from government overspending (or inefficiencies).

Private (Gold), State (Green), Local (Black)

Ironically the economy has done what initiatives in both North America and the UK (see Gershon Review) had failed to do . . . cut excess head count.

Let’s be honest, for a long time and despite the realities of a changing global marketplace, the public sector has for the most part become the final frontier of cradle to grave job security.  This has always been an anomaly according to IACCM’s Tim Cummins who, in a PI Window on Business interview indicated that with the exception of a relatively short period during the 20th Century, employment was always on an on-demand basis.

Civil servants were of course shielded from this immutable truth based on the fact that job loss at the public sector usually meant lost votes at election time.

Hence why the economy did what the majority of politicians (with the exception of those in Wisconsin), were unable to  to do . . . align spending with reality.

However with many States and Municipalities on the precipice of going bankrupt for the first time since the real Great Depression, something had to give.

Now the only real question that remains is where will it end and will this once and for all establish a line in the sand that is public sector fiscal responsibility?

Only time will tell.

In the meantime if you are employed in the public sector, now may be a good time to update your resume because like the Dylan song proclaims . . . the times they are a-changin!