July 6 - Public sector cuts have created a disappearing work force - a middle class largely made up of women and African Americans who are at a loss for new jobs in the private sector. Jill Bennett reports.
To many Americans these faces were familiar: putting out fires, directing traffic, coaching their kids and processing their taxes. Now, hundreds of thousands of those faces are no longer there, as federal, state and local governments slash jobs to meet stringent budget demands. Most vulnerable are women and minorities, especially African Americans. Bill Rodgers, Professor of Public Policy and Labor Economist at Rutgers University: SOUNDBITE: BILL RODGERS, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY/CHIEF ECONOMIST, HELDRICH CENTER FOR WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY. (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The public sector has, starting back in the early 1960's, and even before, was one of the primary sectors that minorities and women got into to find a toehold into the middle class. And if in fact we've seen if you look at the unemployment rate and we look at some of the data for women during this recovery, their unemployment rates have risen, white women unemployment has risen around this period of time, right around the big cuts in public sector and education." Public sector hiring has almost been nonexistent over the past four years, except for a brief distortion caused by Census hiring, while the private sector has slowly added jobs. The trend continued in June, with 84 thousand private sector jobs created but 4 thousand government job cuts. The unemployment rate remained at 8.2%. Escalating public sector cuts could tip the economy back into a recession, warns Robert Brusca, chief economist, Fact and Opinion Economics: SOUNDBITE: ROBERT BRUSCA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, FACT AND OPINION ECONOMICS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If we more aggressively decide to cut government and we decide to cut it too much and too fast you really raise the question of whether you can keep the expansion going, so I think there is a risk of shrinking government too fast. It may be good for growth in the long run it could be devastating to growth in the short run." Especially as government workers find it difficult to transition to private sector jobs. SOUNDBITE: BILL RODGERS, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY/CHIEF ECONOMIST, HELDRICH CENTER FOR WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY. (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We are displacing almost half a million workers who tend to be a bit older, who are coming from having benefits, having a pension, having healthcare and being thrust into the private sector economy that there is not a guarantee that you are going to get a full time and full year work in this recovery." There may be little recourse for those workers as they hit the pavement with the other 12.7 million unemployed, now looking for work. Jill Bennett, Reuters