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Friday, August 28, 2009

Guess who isn't getting laid off

A local reader sends along this graph, which his out-of-state brother uncovered the other day. The brother asks, "What kind of state do you live in?" We're surprised he couldn't tell just by looking at it.

Comments (43)

The red line is all the jobs lost.

The blue line is all the jobs created or saved.

The red line is private employment
The blue line is public employment

Keep feeding the beast. Since there are about 450K PERS accounts out there and those all vote pretty much as a bloc, you can see the future of the state - More government, more taxes.

It really makes you understand how government types can be disconnected from economic realities. If you're immune from job loss, there is no real recession for you. There is no downturn in your job market. That's why these stories of governments shutting down for periods of time are so meaningful. You know it's serious if it affects a government employee's job.

And now factor in that the remaining private jobs have to pay more each to keep the government jobs level.

Then there's the double dip aspect into the diminished revenue pool. So many government jobs involve spending projects. If we lost more government workers we wouldn't have to pay for the crazy stuff they dreamt up either.

Of course, if the jobs did go, the first ten batches would all be the most efficient, best workers as the bureaucratic weasels guarded their turf. I'd love to call some of those clowns into the office and say, "You're a planner. Plan this!"

Finally, isn't it a joy knowing that the entire economic crisis we're in happened because of government officials not keeping better track of what was going on in the financial sector? Thanks, folks! Here's a cardboard box. The security guard will escort you out.

Yep, the public sector is often far better insulated from immediate consequences of job loss. The public sector cycle of impact is longer, slower.

Here's a useful source for other, related data:


Especially the "Data and Reports" section in Related Information (near the bottom.

Not only are they keeping their jobs and hiring more, they are also getting cost of living increases.... while us normal folk face salary cuts, unpaid furloughs, reductions in benefits.....

Re: "And now factor in that the remaining private jobs have to pay more each to keep the government jobs level."

Bill McD suggests the economic reality that when fewer riders use a train, the cost to the remaining riders goes up -- that the marginal few remaining when nearly nobody rides the train makes the cost of riding nearly prohibitive. Unless the train exists for other reasons than to provide transportation.

The lesson for train riders is to avoid being the last one on the train.

Over at the City's Bureau of Development Services (which is the fancy name for Randy's building inspectors), it looks more like the red line.

Not because there aren't any inspections to be made, but because the permits were bought and paid for when the construction projects started, and now that money's been spent. (Much of it to fund non-BDS projects--the commissioners never did see a pot of money they couldn't spend rather than saving it for a rainy day.) There is no money to keep the necessary people around.

The upshot is that there aren't enough inspectors to keep up on the inspections; in the past they've been able to make inspections the day after they were called in. Now there's going to be a waiting list, leading to a bunch of unhappy contractors and homeowners.

"Now there's going to be a waiting list, leading to a bunch of unhappy contractors and homeowners."

First you assume there is that much demand. My take after actual interface with BDS is:

2 years ago - Too much work and you had to see too many diff people for approvals, took forever.

Now - Lot less work, remaining BDS employees stretch out available work to make selfs look busy.

...isn't it a joy knowing that the entire economic crisis we're in happened because of government officials not keeping better track of what was going on in the financial sector?

Certainly a contributing factor, but I still attribute the primary reason this happened to Goldman Sachs and their ilk.

Yes, I am the guilty party who sent the graph to Jack. Please note that this information is devoid of any context or explanation. It is the perfect fodder for talk show host fulmination. The result of lobbing this grenade into Jack's blog is as expected. Most of the readers seem to immediately jump to the conclusion that Government workers and administration exist only to line the pockets of evil bureaucrats. The comment above by Gardiner however, is a good analogy. Government employment does lag the economy and should. Let's look at the services provided and base our criticisms on more complete information

"Government employment does lag the economy and should."

So you see no disconnect in the growth of public jobs and loss of private jobs?

If govt jobs do follow the economy, show me a recession that ever caused govt to shrink. Usually the excuse is govt need to spend/grow more during a recession to keep things going, then everyone shuts up when the economy is good about cutting govt.

The graph's properties shows that its author is Pat McCormick. Is that Pat from CFM? If so, anyone know what cause is being pushed that this graph supports, or who the intended viewer is? Maybe we are, and this is part of the PR strategy.

"Goldman Sachs and their ilk" definitely caused it but what could have prevented it would be people at the Treasury, etc.... diagnosing the problem and reining in derivatives before they went intergalactic.
Of course, the Bush administration was not interested in governing, except to prove government doesn't work. So when people like Henry Paulson were done lobbying the government for changes from Wall Street, Bush put him in charge of monitoring the economy on a federal level.
Meanwhile "regulation" is now one of those words where the right wing just screams. But regulation of the financial sector by the government could have prevented this whole thing.
Not that it hasn't been fun or anything.

Hmmm... that's picking a convenient start point. Roll it back to, oh I don't know, how about 1990?

So the point is that in a time of economic contraction, with unemployment rising, consumer demand plummeting and manufacturing capacity growing — all that bad stuff — government should cut its workforce dramatically? How very Herbert Hoover!

Yes Citizen, you're much safer with the armed gangsters, meth-heads, rapists, burglars, car thieves, robbers, etc.

By the way, the answer to the question, "What kind of state do you live in?" is: One that's a lot like the others.

Texas nonfarm employment, private sector:
October 2008: 8.83 million
June 2009: 8.60 million
Net change: -230,000

Texas nonfarm employment, public sector:
October 2008: 1.76 million
June 2009: 1.83 million
Net change: +70,000


Pete, unlike the federal government, a state cannot print money; it obtains its operating revenue from taxes and fees.

In OR, that means income and property taxes. Public employees are paid from those revenues. They pay both income and property taxes, of course, but the money they use to do so originates in public revenues. If everyone were a public employee, the system would be entirely tautological: a circular exchange that would not survive very long.

But we have the private sector: cash for the public revenues that pay the public sector employees but not the private sector employees. That is how the public services upon which we all depend are funded. If there are fewer private sector employees to pay the taxes that support the public sector employees, then either the remaining private sector employees must pay more or the number of public sector employees must be reduced. Arriving at an equilibrium between public and private sector employees remains problematic in both Portland and in OR.

Of course, there is the federal stimulus option. That is what Herbert Hoover did not consider useful.

I wonder how much of this is a result of the federal stimulus program? Wasn't helping state and local governments from laying off large numbers of police, teachers, etc the idea?


Over time, regulations have generally always lagged the ability of the Goldman Sachs of the world to think of new ways to circumvent authority for their own gain. I agree, there would have been much less damage had Bush era regulators stepped in earlier. But if we believe that we can always deal with this sort of thing only with regulatory policy, we're fooling ourselves.

Prison time for the guilty would be a start. But I'm a dreamer.

Wait, they put Martha Stewart in prison. Wasn't that enough for you?
My limited understanding of this is that the regulations and protections were there, but they were peeled away by Bill Clinton, Phil Gramm, and Henry Paulson among others.
If we had kept the laws as is after the Great Depression these firms could not have done this.
That's why they bought Congress or joined the government to make sure the game was rigged their way.
The problem is not the illegal stuff - though there was certainly plenty of that - but the stuff that is allowed involving taking risks without adequate safeguards if the deals go bad. Certainly you could argue that this was fraud as ridiculously shaky loans were packaged attractively and given a triple A rating. That could be criminal.
As I understand it, none of these problems have been fixed either, although "fixed" can mean a number of things. The irritating part is when people yell that regulating Wall Street could hurt the economy. Yeah, we wouldn't want that to happen, would we?

Gardiner Menefree writes on an interesting point - at one point is there equilibrium?

The majority of taxpayers pay taxes - income and personal property - at a level considerably below the calculated average revenue per taxpayer. (Total personal tax revenue divided by the number of personal taxpayers). Ignore the per capita calculation since non-workers don't pay taxes. This is the voting block that sees no problem with the "rich" paying more taxes. A much smaller proportion pay considerably more than "average." The price for our civil society.

The problem we have in Oregon is that most taxpayers and voters don't realize that they pay less than this average.

I know I am leaving out corporations and many businesses, but others will point out that "they don't pay their fair share."

There is a reasonable amount to pay for good government, education, services, and social programs. Just need to be sure that the spending is sustainable. As Gardiner Menefree points out, there could come some point in time where too many are on the public dime and there simply is not enough to harvest from taxes on individuals or businesses.

The local remedy is to do everything possible to attract businesses to the state. More businesses, more jobs.

Will the Feds be able to print enough money to take care of everyone if private sector jobs don't increase?

Will the voting public wise up?

Kari Chisolm says: Roll it back to, oh I don't know, how about 1990?

According to the Oregon Employment Department, between 1990 and 2008:Q4:

Private employment increased by 37%

Public employment increased by 39%

"Private employment increased by 37%
Public employment increased by 39%"

Perhaps, but Oregon revenues went up about 2x faster than inflation + population growth in that same time.

By the way, the answer to the question, "What kind of state do you live in?" is: One that's a lot like the others.

Ah, the standard of excellence that makes Portland great: "We're better than Detroit or Newark!" Go by streetcar!

re PERS accounts. 450K is way too high even including retirees. And if you think they vote en bloc, you are sadly mistaken. Surprisingly, a large percentage of public employees are far to the right of center. In my experience, probably close to 30% trend with the Rush Limbaugh crowd, another 20% are moderate Repubs, and the rest are Dems or indys with a variety of political viewpoints. One thing I've learned in ALL my dealings with PERS members for the past 10 years is that they are ANYTHING BUT politically homogeneous.

Indeed, what kind of state do we live in? The general trend is that states with Republican leadership seem to have budget problems, but on a much smaller scale than the Democrat-led ones. That's one issue.
The "balance" referenced above would lead one to the impression that the blue-liners are somehow insulated from the recession in regard to job security.
With the President saying "raising taxes in the middle of a recession is foolish" and the governor signing into law an increase in taxation on the "rich" and the minimum tax to corporations, one wonders. Indeed, what kind of state do we live in?

This graph really worries me - it's very troubling that all those cops, teachers, firefighters, prison guards, parole officers, road crews, etc. aren't getting fired. We sure don't need THEM, do we?

Nice try, Frank, but I think we could have started here:


Jack - Those folks are all city bureau directors-in-training. We need them too, don't we???

Do we see some duplication in Mayor's Staff?


So, let's play... "Tag, you stay"
Skip Newberry/Economic Development Policy Adviser
Kimberly Schneider/Economic Development Director
Clay Neal/Economic Development Policy Coordinator

Do we need three people doing the job of say, one or two.

Kali Thorne Ladd/Education Strategies Policy Adviser
Reese Lord II/Education Strategies Youth Coordinator

This isn't Portland Public School District.

Shoshanah Oppenheim/Transportation Policy Manager
Dan Anderson/Public Advocate - Bureau of Transportation
Catherine Ciarlo/Transportation Director

Let's try to get by with only one director for a while. After all. Seems the only transportation we need is our bicycle or lightrail.
Amy Ruiz/Planning and Sustainability Policy Advisor
Megan Ponder/Planning and Sustainability Policy Coordinator

Let see if one of these ladies can multitask like others of us are in the current economic conditions. Advisor - Coordinator... can't be that different from each other.


Jennifer Yocom/Arts and Culture Director
Pollyanne Birge/Arts and Culture Coordinator


Paul Peterson/New Media Manager
Roy Kaufmann/Communications Director
Greg Leiher/Public Liason

Sounds like you could package this into one office and let them continue to tell us that Sam isn't going to step down from office. Do I need to say more?

Alacia Lauer/Staff Assistant

She's probable the person who does most of the work, so there are no other candidates for this round. Hang in there Alacia!

I think we just eliminate NINE POSITIONS, then times an estimated real cost of $60,000 per position, we end up with over a HALF MILLION DOLLARS saved a year. Now, if we multiply this by all of the potential savings with the City Counselors staff , and then tackle the departments we're talking about BIG MONEY.

"re PERS accounts. 450K is way too high even including retirees."

Thank you, I stand corrected, 320,779 accounts:


However, if you were to tell me that the great majority would vote for anything that would remotely reduce taxes, I'd be hard-pressed to agree.

"The whole point of the Stimulus was that state and local governments would be able to hire people and pick up some of the slack from the private sector."

You have an example of this being done efficiently at all (not the Oregon 300 one-week job plan either)? Most states used the money to pad their shortfalls and NOT to create jobs.


I didn't suggest that the "great majority" would vote for anything that would remotely reduce taxes. What I said is that the group of PERS members (320,000 +/-) is anything but monolithic. I deal with PERS members and retirees every DAY and I'm suggesting that the best you could expect from them is about 50% tops would support agendas that would increase taxes. The other 50% are economic libertarians and social conservatives who would vote for tax decreases UNLESS they directly affected their job or benefits. That's the same logic used by everyone. PERS members and retirees are a pretty accurate mirror of the whole population statewide.

What we see in the graph is that socialism is more reliable than capitalism.

What's wrong with that?

Why should everybody have to suffer?

Yeah,socialism is what led to the U.S. being the largest economy in the world - three times bigger than the next (Japan) and roughly the same size as countries 2, 3, and 4.

Was it Churchill who said socialism is great until you run out of other people's money? What's the state going to do with all these employees when there aren't any more taxpayers to fund the salaries and benefits? Perhaps when they start purging some of the public employees, some sense of suffering will make its way down to Salem.

We can pretty much deduce here which commenters work in the private sector and which work in the public sector.

The constant worship of the "private sector" reminds me of Plankton on "Spongebob Squarepants" - "All bow down to the private sector!" Remember - it's the private sector that brought us Enron, Goldman Sachs, Little Lord Paulson and an infinite list of other robbers and theives.

The constant worship of the "private sector" reminds me of Plankton on "Spongebob Squarepants" - "All bow down to the private sector!"

Dude. It's the private sector that makes everything possible, including every single public sector job. Spongebob too, for that matter.

Remember - it's the private sector that brought us Enron, Goldman Sachs, Little Lord Paulson and an infinite list of other robbers and theives.

And the public sector brought us Castro, Pol Pot, Stalin, and Hitler.

To narrow the discussion a tad, does anyone recall the 2007 Auditor's Report on Portland's hiring practices:

Does anyone know whether City Council action followed the analysis?

Having owned a new home in DeForestEd Heights for a time, I have no sympathy for anything involving city building inspectors. In the mid '90s, what I observed was that their role seemed to be to ignore issues in new developments and get properties on the tax roles to bring in more income. Even when an owner to be pointed out flagrant violations, the city inspectors did not care. And the outcomes of that are being dealt with as the homes age.

Never underestimate the Pure Evilness of public employees.


It was Thatcher who said that "The only problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

Al M,

Your second question answers your first.

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