COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on employment at local schools and public colleges
Practically every segment of the economy has suffered this year as the pandemic and resulting recession sparked massive job losses, but new data suggests education workers have been among the hardest hit.
The latest U.S. Department of Labor estimates show that state and local education employment was down 8.8% in October from the previous year, representing the lowest national jobs total at that point in the school year since 2000. The cuts were mostly driven by temporary layoffs and positions left unfilled in the new school year. Private sector jobs, by comparison, dropped 6.2% year over year.
The severity of public employment declines so far varies considerably across states, which isn’t surprising given that some state and local budgets have been hit harder by the new recession than others and that schools have taken different approaches to reopening with in-person or remote instruction.
In seven states, local education employment fell more than 10% over the year as of September, based on the latest available state-level data. Meanwhile only two states, North Dakota and Utah, recorded slight gains. In most states, higher education employment fell at even greater rates. Although teachers account for a portion of the local education cuts, anecdotal evidence suggests that bus drivers, food service personnel, support staff, and other noninstructional positions bore the brunt of the initial reductions as schools shifted to distance learning.