Wall Street celebrated last week’s jobs report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment fell to 7.5 percent and that 165,000 new jobs were added in April. The report also revised its numbers from the past couple of months, saying that the job creation was stronger than first glance.
But the same numbers are lousy in Indian Country. If you read the full report there’s a number (and a trend) that is concerning: Government sector employment continues to drop. In the technical language of the BLS, “Employment in ... government, showed little change over the month.” Little change was a minus 11,000 jobs. But if you pull back and look at the longer trend government employment continues to shrink.
A report by The Hamilton Project last year detailed this larger trend.
“Total government (i.e., the sum of state, local, and federal) employment has decreased by over 580,000 jobs since the end of the recession, the largest decrease in any sector since the recovery began in July 2009. State and local governments, faced with tough choices imposed by the confluence of balanced-budget requirements, falling tax revenues, and greater demand for public services, have been forced to lay off teachers, police officers, and other workers,” the report by Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney reported last August. This is the lowest public-sector employment in 30 years.
But go back even further and the trend is even more stark. Between 1950 and 1975 government jobs accounted for 1 in every 4 jobs created “contributing to widespread public belief that government, especially the Federal government, is too large,” said a 1981 BLS report.
There is no national data on the growth of tribal governments just after this time frame, but there should be.
The post-1975 growth of tribal government services is stunning, drive around any reservation and the visible evidence is overwhelming. Tribes created programs, took over the management of Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service, built schools and colleges.
The California Indian Gaming Association reported in 2003, for example, that “tribal government economies have for three years lead the state in job growth, with employment more than doubling since January 2000, when there were 17,200 workers on tribal payrolls.” (more…)