During the 2008 recession and budget crisis, sweeping layoffs on federal, state, and local levels took place, particularly in the public sector. These layoffs continue to take place, and even with the economy on the rebound, public sector unemployment rates remain on the decline. Women and African Americans are taking the hardest hits from these sweeping layoffs, with women accounting for 59.5% of public sector jobs compared to their 49% representation in overall employment. Similarly, African Americans account for 12.3% of public sector jobs compared to 10.9% of overall employment. Since the 1960s, public sector jobs became available to more blacks and women who were otherwise restricted from entering the job market. These government jobs are more likely to be unionized, employ stricter anti-discrimination laws, and are dependable sources of income and employment. While public sector layoffs affect the entire country, women and African American workers are especially impacted by cutbacks in public sector jobs.
As employment rates for private sector jobs have continued to grow during the past 30 months, public sector employment has decreased considerably since the July 2009 economic recovery period. The public sector has lost more jobs than any other sector since the recession, with a total of 580,000 jobs. We are currently in the lowest level of public sector employment in over 30 years, due, in part, to the Republican political agenda. The recession allowed many politicians to lobby political agendas that otherwise would not have passed, such as justifying the reduction of social programs for budgetary reasons. However, with the rebound of the economy and public sector employment at a continual decline, the reasons are more clearly seen as primarily political. The efforts of conservative politicians to keep down collective bargaining and government regulations negatively affects everyone but a few influential private corporations.
A specific example of privatization and dismantling of unions is the push for the privatization of the United States Postal Service. The USPS entered a secretive deal offering postal services at Staples stores, thereby eliminating unionized employment for USPS employees. Instead, poorly trained, low wage Staples employees were used for their services. The attempt to move post offices into Staples stores was defeated by the picketing and boycott campaign by postal workers and their allies among the public. The privatization of the postal service has been justified by claims of multi billion-dollar losses and a strain on U.S. taxpayers, both of which are absolutely false. In fact, the USPS is a profitable organization with improving finances. Similarly, the US Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and instead relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations. Unfortunately, unlike any other government or private corporation, Republicans in Congress have required USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits, costing $5.6 billion a year, encouraging detractors to argue that the USPS is a fiscally ineffective system.