During the pandemic, ‘lost’ education jobs aren’t what they seem

By: | March 3, 2021

Throughout 2020, media accounts were filled with stories about private sector job losses, layoffs, and bankruptcies. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private sector companies employed 7 million fewer workers at the end of 2020 than they had at the start of it, a 6% decline.

On a proportional basis, the job losses were actually larger in the public sector, especially in public education. The same BLS data show that employment fell by 8% at public K-12 schools and 11% in public higher education.

And yet, there were far fewer stories about public sector job losses. My team at the Georgetown University Edunomics Lab, for example, has been tracking school district budget decisions over the last year, and we have not seen many stories of large-scale layoffs in the nation’s biggest school districts.

So, what caused the education job losses? And what do they mean for the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill making its way through Congress?

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