By: Maria Hibbard
Although we posted last week about the surprising steady increase in the number of attorneys employed by the federal government over the last five years, employees of state and local governments in have not been so lucky throughout the recession. The data reported in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times over the past few days addresses the layoffs of public workers generally, but because states and cities employ numerous attorneys (and state money funds prosecutors and public defenders offices), the struggle to balance local budgets means that job security for state and local government attorneys might not be certain. While the federal government can print money, state and local governments often have to balance their budgets by reducing salaries or making personnel cuts. When a state receives less aid from the federal government, it is forced to reduce the amount of aid it makes to local governments. The New York Times reports:
Government payrolls grew in the early part of the recovery, largely because of federal stimulus measures. But since its postrecession peak in April 2009 (not counting temporary Census hiring), the public sector has shrunk by 706,000 jobs. The losses appeared to be tapering off earlier this year, but have accelerated for the last three months, creating the single biggest drag on the recovery in many areas.
With the economy expanding, albeit slowly, state tax revenues have started to recover and are estimated to exceed prerecession levels next year. Yet governors and legislatures are keeping a tight rein on spending, whether to refill depleted rainy-day funds or because of political inclination.
At the same time, costs for health care, social services, pensions and education are still rising. Fourteen states plan to resolve their budget gaps by reducing aid to local governments, according to a report by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.
So while the federal government has grown a little since the recession, and many states have recently begun to add a few jobs, local governments are making new cuts that outweigh those gains. More than a quarter of municipal governments are planning layoffs this year, according to a survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. They are being squeezed not only by declining federal and state support, but by their devastated property tax base.
Although this data seems dismal, it does not mean that attorney jobs in state and local government do not exist. You can find an extensive map and list of resources on where to find state and local positions throughout the U.S. on PSLawNet’s State and Local Government Resources page.