Take a look at this graph showing public and private employment growth during the recovery. The private sector job turnaround began in February 2010 and has continued. Even June showed growth, although anemic. Now look at the public sector—primarily state and local—job picture. The public sector has been shedding jobs non-stop. As the Economic Policy Institute points out this drastic reduction in government jobs is unusual after and during a recession.
Two years after the official end of the Great Recession, the continued loss of public-sector jobs is an obstacle to reaching pre-recession employment levels. This decline in government employment is a historic anomaly; public-sector employment actually increased in the two years after official recoveries began in 10 of 11 post-World War II business cycles. The lone exception was in the early 1980s when the economy experienced a double-dip recession.
Typically, the federal government steps in to help state and local governments from laying off workers during a recession recognizing that public sector layoffs will just make the downturn worse. Unlike the private sector, the federal government can provide direct grants to state and local governments to help them retain workers and even hire new ones until the economy improves. We did some of that with the stimulus package, but not enough. Republicans have consistently fought any further assistance to the states. The consequences are clear for this graph. Imagine what the overall job picture would look like if we had done more to help the states. Also, recognize that public sector job cuts hurt private sector job recovery because public sector workers who don't have jobs purchase fewer goods and services from the private sector, thus decreasing demand. It doesn't have to be that way and would not except for Republican opposition to state assistance and further stimulus.