Saturday, February 07, 2009

Jobs and the Public Sector

Maybe you saw the photo of the thousand or so people lined up for 35 firefighter jobs with the City of Miami. It ran with this article from the Herald, which treated it as an example of the growing unemployment problem generally. If the people in the line were all unemployed, then it certainly would be evidence of tha problem. (And there is such a problem, of course.) But this particular line is likely about something else. It's probably about getting a job in the public sector.

Glenn Reynolds on his blog quotes this from a Forbes article:

America, in case you hadn’t noticed, is dividing into two nations. The 22.5-million-strong public sector (that includes retirees) is growing ever larger, and enjoying ever greater wages and benefits often guaranteed by state constitutions.

In private-sector America your job, assuming you still have one, hangs on the fate of the economy. If your employer ever offered a pension for life, like young officer Goss is receiving, odds are it has stopped doing so, or soon will. Those retirement accounts you scrimped and saved to assemble? Unless they are invested in Treasurys, they aren’t doing too well. In private-sector America the math leads to the grim prospect of working longer and living poorer.

In public-sector America things just get better and better. The common presumption is that public servants forgo high wages in exchange for safe jobs and benefits. The reality is they get all three. State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33% higher than the private sector’s $19, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42%.

Glenn suggests that we read the whole thing, and that's a good idea.

On the other hand, doesn't the "stimulus" bill give us all these kinds of pensions? Maybe it's in there, and we shouldn't be concerned.

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