When it comes to an economy trying to right itself, if it's not one thing, it's another.
Even as the economy seems to be moving -- slowly -- in the direction of growth, government jobs are disappearing at a steady pace, raising concerns that vital services will remain understaffed and delay a broader recovery.
The news from the private sector is good -- relatively speaking. A report released Wednesday showed that there were 110,000 new private-sector jobs added in October, beating expectations, and 116,000 new jobs in September. These aren't boom-economy numbers, according to Reuters, but they're mildly encouraging. Meanwhile, the number of claims filed for unemployment benefits dropped off last week, another cause for measured optimism.
But over in the public sector, the news is bad, and has been for a long time.
State and local government jobs have declined by more than 3 percent since August 2008, according to a recent blog post at the U.S. Department of Commerce Web site. That's about 646,000 jobs that have disappeared.
Over a third of those have happened in 2011 alone. In fact, the public sector has shed jobs this year at the same rate the private sector has added them -- 234,000 jobs lost in state and local government, a decline of 1.2 percent, versus 1.3 million new jobs in the private sector, a gain of 1.2 percent.
Mark Doms, chief economist at the Department of Commerce, wrote on the DoC Web site this week that among the jobs lost or at risk of disappearing in the wave of state and local government cuts are police officers, firefighters and public school teachers.
Downsizing is also taking place at the federal level, as agencies struggle to cut costs and get by on less tax revenue than in previous years. There are 30,000 fewer federal employees today than a year ago, according to the Associated Press.
Further federal job loss is likely to come. The 12-member congressional supercommittee, created in the wake of this summer's debt-ceiling standoff, has until Thanksgiving to deliver its recommendations for reducing government spending by $1.2 trillion.
Budget cuts expected at a number of departments, including the Postal Service, the Internal Revenue Service and the intelligence community, could translate into substantial layoffs throughout D.C., according to outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
And that would hold only help to keep the nation's unemployment rate -- currently at 9.1 percent, with new estimates arriving Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- high.