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Record Drop in Education Jobs

Posted by: Michael Mandel on October 02

Today’s employment report shows that the recession has finally hit education. With the new school year starting, September education jobs fell by 0.9%, or 121K jobs, compared to September 2008. This is a record drop, based on data going all the way back to the 1950s.

The chart tells the story.


By education employment, I mean local, state, and private sector education employment, including elementary, high-school, higher education, and technical schools (child day care services are not included).

Since 1959, when the data starts, there have been three previous Septembers where there were fewer education jobs than the previous year—1978, 1981, 1982. These three came during the period of fastest decline in K-12 enrollment, as school age populations shrunk after the baby boom.

So we are now in the first school year on record where education jobs are falling, while enrollments are rising. The decline is across the board.

This is not a good thing. I had hoped that education would serve as a countercyclical force, with governments investing in human capital both for the short-term stimulus and for the long-term investment. But the squeeze on local and state government budgets has turned out to be too much.

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Reader Comments


October 2, 2009 02:26 PM

Parents in Ohio are screaming because the taxpayers refuse to pay for their little brats to play football anymore! BOO HOO! All we ever promised was reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. Computers should be added to that list, but little else.

Brandon W

October 2, 2009 03:50 PM

The point of public education is to provide education to everyone, regardless of income, to promote class mobility. Obviously, that hasn't worked. The U.S. - despite the propaganda - ranks pretty poorly against other nations for class mobility. Maybe we ought to terminate public education, let private schools handle everything, and let the free market work it out? That would save a ton of taxes. And if teachers can't find jobs, they can get together and launch their own school; or provide private teaching for those who don't wish to send their kids to a school. That might provide enough employment, don't you think? No one wants to pay for anything, anyway.... we might as well start cutting this stuff.


October 2, 2009 04:58 PM

I'm sure the govt. run health programs will save money and be efficient. ha


October 2, 2009 06:57 PM

Brandon, not sure if you're serious about your recommendation but the notion that public education promotes income mobility is wrong on so many levels. If anything, public education stunts mobility, by keeping the masses in bad public schools while the rich gladly pay for private schools. Second, mobility has been pretty much the same recently as it ever was, when you actually use data that follows the same people over time ( Most current reports that purport to find less mobility are based on aggregated data that cannot separate the trends mentioned in that post out from the data. As for your recommendation, I'm not sure you're serious but I'd be for that entirely, though not going to matter as online learning will soon destroy the current education system. Getting back to Mike's post, nice to hear some good news but that's nothing, the teaching ranks will be decimated soon, and good riddance as we're warehousing incompetents as teachers as much as the kids are warehoused. There will be plenty of low-level online clerical work for them to do, only most won't make anywhere near their currently overpaid salary in that coming real market.


October 2, 2009 07:01 PM

Brandon W wrote :

Maybe we ought to terminate public education, let private schools handle everything, and let the free market work it out?

Yes. Brandon is becoming a right-wing free-marketeer.

I'd settle for a voucher program where the dollars follow the child, and that can be applied to charter schools.

The lack of teacher merit-based evaluation is a big problem. As is the weird myth that 'teachers are underpaid in America'. The teachers unions have made schools into a welfare state for women with no real interest in the profession.


October 2, 2009 11:54 PM

Overall, I'm generally not pleased to see employment go down, but education seems a natural target as a big part of local government budgets where there really are efficiencies to be had and cuts that can safely be made. Unfortunately, education is one of those infrastructure investments where the areas that can least afford such expenditures are the ones that most need them.

The health system is practically government run today. Even the "private-sector" part of the industry is operating under far from free-market positions.

Brandon W,
I'm going to second Kartik's support of voucher systems. I think some subsidy of the basic tools of economic mobility is worthwhile. But other than that, exposing schools to market conditions is generally a good thing.

it would be difficult to destroy the education system anytime soon because its primary perceived values are certification of intelligence and evidence of willingness to work. I don't think people are willing to trust online learning as an accreditation system: it's even easier to cheat than in traditional schools. Online degrees are popular, but I don't think they're worth as much for getting jobs.


October 3, 2009 12:00 AM

Wow! How many of these web-posters have actually worked as a teacher or worked with children in general? It all looks good on paper: your economic theories and models. (Course we see how these theories have helped us lately... still sticking with the supply-siders?)

Do you seriously think that there is no place for schools and group learning for children and young adults?

I teach high school students that are at risk of not graduating for a variety of factors in their lives. I teach them writing, reading, critical thinking, and small and large group communication. These are essential skills in the workplace and in life. I work really hard to get through to these kids so they don't end up dropping out, hopeless, and even worse- going to prison... have considered learned the statistics and percentages of Americans in prison who are illiterate? What's a better long-term investment: educated, competent human capital or uneducated people who have few skills to work in the 21st century?

"The teachers unions have made schools into a welfare state for women with no real interest in [teaching]?" What planet are you living on, seriously?


October 3, 2009 01:05 AM

My god, you people are ignorant.

I dare a single one of you to step in front of a class room of 45 students, with a lesson plan carefully drawn out that will reach as many as possible in a 55 minute period.

The conservative movement has continuously attacked and weakened our public school systems. Privatize them? Really? The problem is funding and allocation. While many school systems do not receive the funding they need, many do but the money stops at the top branches of administrative levels. Private schools achieve better scores for a variety of reasons, one of them being that their class sizes are usually less than 15 students per class. 15 versus 45. Yeah, who do you think is going to get a better education? How do they do this? Funding from parents AND funding through tax exemptions and subsidies.

What about the NCLB act? Oh, you mean the finely crafted act that takes teachers out of the class room? You mean the act that takes funding away from troubled schools and turns them over to private business? Oh, you mean the act that fundamentally destroys education? The act that makes credentialed teachers mandatory for public schools but not for private schools.

Our schools are not mills. They are not wheels in the cogs of the corporate machinery of capitalism. There are full of living, breathing kids, children, that have needs and aren't getting any help.

Throwing money at it isn't going to solve the problem. But let me ask you this? How important is our nation's education compared to having a strong defense system? Both are important. How important? Is defense twice as important? Three times as important? How about six times? No, apparently our country usually spends EIGHT times more on defense than on education. That's not a plan for an educated mass, that's a plan for a militant mass.

Careful curriculum planning, responsible allocation of funds, and respect of education officials is key. The idea that a 'teacher' needs, total, eight years of training and education before they are credentialed is fine. How could home-schooling education compare then if a parent doesn't even need a degree in anything? The NCLB act effectively made it mandatory to go through the exact amount of training, education, and internship time as a doctor before you're not subject to removal at the end of each year. While at the same time the average pay for starting teachers is 40K. That's after a BA/BS and a Credential, which is comparable to a Masters. Now, think of the student loans. And while this is happening, some people think that home-schooling is as good or better than being taught by a trained professional!

Are there bad teachers? Of course. Are there bad doctors? Yes. Are there bad police officers? Yes. Is privatizing schools the answer? Only if you want to further destroy the middle class. The wealthy will be given excellent government subsidized educations (which many private schools receive already) while the middle and lower class neighborhoods will be offered abysmal education because they don't have the resources to fight back against big business. Oh wait, that's what conservatives have been doing to public education already!

Public education was one of the greatest advances of the modern era. It helped to effectively create the middle class. Take that away, and you'll be welcoming in feudal lords, a.k.a. Big Business/Lobbyists/Paid for Politicians.

There are no jobs in education because it is a knee jerk reaction to cut education funding when budgets don't add up. Why? Because the majority of the nation's affluent and wealthy families can afford to send their children to private schools and don't worry about education cuts. It's abuse.

Public education is necessary. Our nation depends on it as much as self defense.

Oh, and Kartik, you sexist p.r.i.c.k. There's men teachers too.


October 3, 2009 03:00 AM


I sometimes forget how much I base my arguments on who am talking to: not my beliefs, but the pieces of them I'm willing to show. :) Of course teaching kids is difficult and requires real skill. And having most people in society be literate is a monumental public good: so public education is important. That doesn't mean going to whatever school the government decides you ought to be bussed to is necessarily the best option, though.

Competition among schools is a good thing: it would be nice if not only the people with money could participate in that. And in my meager experience, the primary thing that makes a bad school bad isn't the teachers' knowledge of their subject, but the attitude of the community (students, teachers, and parents) towards education and civility. And that's why some of the home-schooled children I've been aware of have been better educated than most of the ones in public school: not because their parents are great educators but because they've learned how to teach themselves, and because their world doesn't revolve around TV, fashion, or just trying not to spend most of their time fending off other kids who think they have nothing to lose because their parents aren't positively involved in their lives. It doesn't hurt that the teacher to student ratio is tremendously better at home.

Granted, I say this as someone who enjoyed the benefits of a public at decent schools: ones where the drugs were mostly hidden and where the fights you got into because you didn't know how to look like you didn't care didn't involve weapons. But by the time I went over to a private high school on a scholarship, I understood just what the parents were looking for in the better schools: partially it was better teachers. Mostly it was to get their kids away from sex, alcohol, drugs, and confused kids who felt they had something to prove and nothing to lose. If schools could weed that out a bit, I might be less inclined to see them shaken up.

Glen Parker

October 3, 2009 07:08 AM

K-12 education is financed by counties, or states that are all short on funding because of the declining tax base that provides this funding.

In California, Education is 42% of state spending and that is the why it it cut so deeply. Thousands of teachers are being laid off.


October 3, 2009 11:57 AM


I agree with the busing strategy to a point. It can lead to segregation practices also.

Boston has done busing for decades and if you look at the numbers it's worked great, but I've spoken to many students that hated it because of the long commute, etc. 'Choice' is the key word.

Glen Parker
42% on Education also includes, in large part, higher education not only public schools.


October 3, 2009 06:26 PM

Has anyone at all realized that very few of the people graduating from college can find a job. Does this mean we are going to see massive defaults on student loans?


October 3, 2009 07:17 PM

Wow, passionate and informed debate - I do love this blog! My general comment on teaching - from an Australian parents perspective - is that the school experience has become much better over the last 30 or so years and the breadth of material covered and the pedagogical practice of teachers has improved markedly. Another comment is that there is still tremendous scope for more innovative practice, especially with the use of IT. Another point is that parents will always have an enormous impact on outcomes.
On the private / public debate I think (believe?) public education is a great mechanism for promoting social cohesion, but the associated bureacracy can stifle innovation. My local public education system (which my kids attend) leans towards putting more autonomy with the schools, which seems to work well.
I think the voucher system would be an interesting experiment. Like capitalism itself it would tend to stretch the spectrum of quality (increasing the gap between good and bad schools) and increase the pace of beneficial change.
However, all that being said I have no doubt whatsoever that the defunding of education indicated by the loss in jobs will produce negative outcomes for society as whole in the short to medium term. Our local education union has a motto - "Don't prune the roots" which I love.


October 4, 2009 06:36 PM

The reason for this is very simple - no funding. Academia needs to find alternative revenue streams. Taxes and tuition are not enough. Endowments and fundraising have been destroyed by this fiscal recession. Education needs to establish a self-sustaining revenue generating model. It needs to use technology and the Internet to generate revenue. Please review my websites to see what I mean
They share revenue with the schools. The more students use them the more revenue is generated.


October 5, 2009 02:35 AM

Nice post and comments. Please have a look on for to know more about this topic

Brandon W

October 5, 2009 08:04 AM

Vouchers are nonsense. If you're for vouchers, why aren't you for a single-payer health care system? Same difference: give money to the government so they can manage distribution to providers. Bah. Close all the public schools and let the free market work it out. That also means states can cut a lot of taxes - particularly property taxes - that are going to support schools.

And I'm not "right wing" anything. The right wing are bunch of sell-out clowns that are owned by Wall Street.


October 5, 2009 09:23 AM

Brandon W,

Vouchers are at heart an income re-distribution targeted at a single service market. Unless I'm wrong about the details (quite possible), it's basically equivalent to the government taking a pot of money from everyone, then redistributing it equally so long as it's spent on schools. That's a little different than a single-payer health-care system in the realms of information, control, and consumer choice.

You can't just close down all the public schools. You could potentially privatize existing ones over time. As a proponent of religious schools, that would work fine for me. But access to cheap education is a great social equalizer: close that down and see what happens to social mobility then! See what happens in a society where the majority of people don't believe that hard work is the ticket to success! There are a lot of non-legal alternatives people will turn to, and the cost of that is high enough already.

Andrew Hazlett

October 5, 2009 10:42 AM

Michael: Any sense of which level of education is cutting back?

My guess is that the declines are really in higher education employment. Yes, local and municipal budgets are squeezed, but I think both public and private universities are getting hammered on multiple fronts.

It would be interesting to know if higher ed is really the loser here.

Brandon W

October 5, 2009 11:58 AM

I would argue that single-payer is basically equivalent to the government taking a pot of money from everyone, then redistributing it so everyone has equal access to health care. That's the point of any government "redistribution" program: to provide equal access to some service, whether that's education, health care, city sewer or trash, city water systems, public roads, etc. But it comes at a price... a price people aren't willing to pay any more. So let's throw it all out and let the free market take care of it.

Mike Mandel

October 5, 2009 02:14 PM


Your intuition is not correct, at least according to the BLS data. Employment at private colleges and universities is up over the last year, according to the latest report, which goes through August 2009 (September data is not available for such a detailed category).

Meanwhile, the state and local education jobs are both down by roughly the same percentage.


October 5, 2009 05:38 PM

Brandon W,

Which one? Education? Health Care, public roads? All of them?

I think the reason we have a representative government is that people don't understand the social cost of those decisions very well: any change in those things is a *big deal* in terms of how it affects a lot of people. And education is special in that it's the number one way in which a family that is poor can change its status significantly within a single generation. Without a minimum belief in social mobility, you will find a drastically larger number of people quickly will fail to buy into quaint notions of social contract like property rights and the rule of law. Of course, if you shoot people for theft and streamline the judicial process (as they did in much of history), you "alleviate" some of that, but I really don't like that direction of thought.


October 7, 2009 07:30 PM

Caleb claimed :

Oh, and Kartik, you sexist p.r.i.c.k. There's men teachers too.

Very few. Feminists block men from that profession, and men further avoid teaching due to the severe personal risks of getting a false accusation on them.

It is a profession very unfriendly to male applicants. Get a clue.

Tim Jones

November 18, 2009 09:07 AM

If you take a look at Chris Meyer's view on the future of work as part of the futureagenda programme ( you can see some interesting perspectives on where education is heading: "As income increases in India, China, Brazil, and elsewhere, growth in demand for skilled services will occur disproportionately in these emerging economies" gives the overall picture and "Education will be industrialized - broken into small, repeatable tasks and thus increasingly deskilled." highlights one impact. Well worth a read given the topic being commented on here!

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November 23, 2009 08:19 PM

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Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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