Doing It Their Way Government Layoffs Worsening Unemployment

Isaiah J. Poole

There is new evidence of the cost of right-wing austerity policies in the latest report on downsizing activity from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., which headlines the fact that there have been more layoffs in the first 11 months of 2011 than in all of 2010. A key reason, according to the report: Cuts in government spending.

“For the year, government agencies have now announced 180,881 job cuts, 30 percent more than the 138,979 job cuts announced by these employers through November 2010,” the firm said in a news release, and a significantly higher percentage than the percentage of cuts announced overall in the private sector.

“With one month remaining in 2011, job cuts for the year total 564,297, officially surpassing the 2010 year-end total of 529,973. The 11-month total is 13 percent higher than the 497,969 job cuts announced over the same period a year ago,” the firm said in its statement.

This chart shows how the cuts break down by sector, compared to 2010:

Sector 2011 2010
Government 180,881 138,979
Financial 56,191 21,430
Retail  48,338 33,814
Aerospace/Defense 34,354 17,981
Health Care/Products 23,812 26,612

The report notes that a series of automatic budget cuts in domestic and military spending, triggered by the failure of a deficit-reduction supercommittee to come to an alternative agreement, is destined to make things worse, although perhaps not as bad as some proposals for a “grand bargain” that would have made even deeper cuts and promoted even more layoffs. In addition to the job losses from those automatic cuts, the report notes the looming threat that economic problems at the U.S. Postal Service could result in an additional 200,000 layoffs in the coming months.

The facts in the report underscore the impact of the austerity agenda that conservatives have successfully foisted onto the nation at both the state and federal levels. By pushing premature federal budget cuts during a period of economic stagnation and by blocking aid to state and local governments that would have prevented their adding to the ranks of the jobless, conservatives have not only set the stage for nearly the 181,000 public sector layoffs counted in the Challenger Gray report, but have helped worsen the private sector job market as well as the effects of the government layoffs ripple through the economy.

Don’t be surprised if the “layoffs getting worse under President Obama” line shows up in conservative talking points in the coming days. Also, don’t be surprised if they fail to mention that 34 percent of the layoffs this year are layoffs they advocated and encouraged—and are actively working to increase.

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