Report Contrasts State Government and Private Sector Employment Changes During Pandemic

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

Read coverage of this report in Patch: “MA State Workers Had More Job Security In Pandemic: Study.”

BOSTON – Massachusetts state government employment has been virtually flat during COVID-19 even as employment in the state’s private sector workforce remains nearly 10 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. The study, “Public vs. Private Employment in Massachusetts: A Tale of Two Pandemics,” questions whether it makes sense to shield public agencies from last year’s recession at the expense of taxpayers.

“Compared to restaurants, retailers and other businesses, there was very little pressure on state government to cut costs associated with COVID’s economic fallout,” said Serena Hajjar, who authored the study. “The private sector has felt the bulk of the pain of this contraction.”

At one point in April 2020, total employment in Massachusetts was 23 percent below pre-pandemic levels, while at the same time state-level government employment was higher than it was in February 2020.

Using Pioneer Institute’s state employee tracker in MassOpenBooks, researchers highlight employment changes among particular state agencies. As might be expected during a pandemic, the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Public Health have higher employment levels than before the pandemic. Perhaps more surprisingly, the MBTA, whose ridership stands at a third of February 2020 levels, has also gained employees.

Some large educational, law enforcement, and judicial institutions have lost employment. The University of Massachusetts system and the Department of Corrections experienced 4 and 3 percent year-over-year employment declines, respectively.

In the private sector, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector — which includes bars, restaurants, and hotels — hasn’t surpassed 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels since last spring. As of February 25, 2021, in-store retailers still face a 50 percent occupancy cap due to ongoing virus concerns. Over the 12-month period ended January 31, 2021, the number of small businesses open in Massachusetts declined by nearly 38 percent.

“During the pandemic the private sector took it on the chin while public sector employees, for the most part, were treated as a protected class,” said Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios. “To turn around now and raise taxes to placate public sector unions’ desire to bolster their ranks is willful blindness to reality. State employees represent 3 percent of all employees in the Commonwealth. Coming out of the pandemic, the legislature needs to focus on growing private sector jobs, not taxing them.”

About the Author

Serena Hajjar is an independent contractor at Pioneer Institute, focusing on transparency around the state’s reporting of coronavirus figures and the effects of the coronavirus response on the state economy. Ms. Hajjar is a recipient of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant to Russia for the 2020–21 cycle. She has a B.A. in international relations and Russian and Eastern European studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

About Pioneer

Pioneer’s mission is to develop and communicate dynamic ideas that advance prosperity and a vibrant civic life in Massachusetts and beyond.

Pioneer’s vision of success is a state and nation where our people can prosper and our society thrive because we enjoy world-class options in education, healthcare, transportation, and economic opportunity, and where our government is limited, accountable and transparent.

Pioneer values an America where our citizenry is well-educated and willing to test our beliefs based on facts and the free exchange of ideas, and committed to liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.

Get Updates on Our Economic Opportunity Research

Related Content:

Massachusetts Tax Revenues Surpass Pre-Pandemic Levels

/
Pandemic recovery and then some! Massachusetts revenues are higher than anyone was expecting, but where is all the money coming from? And what does this mean for the Massachusetts economy?

Yuliya Tarasava Invests In Americans Who Need It Most

This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Yuliya Tarasava, immigrant from Belarus and cofounder and chief operating officer at CNote, a platform that helps facilitate investment in financially underserved communities across America.

Study Documents The Design Challenges, Contracting Issues, And Delays Facing New MBTA Fare Collection System

This new study unearths previously unseen communications between the MBTA and its contractors, showing that the MBTA’s efforts to modernize its fare collection system, including allowing payments with credit cards and bringing “tap and go” technology to Commuter Rail and ferry lines, was riddled with technological challenges and difficulties overseeing contractors as early as 2019, culminating in a 3-year delay to the project’s full implementation.

Jackie Krick Trains the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Jackie Krick, immigrant from Colombia and founder, president and CEO of ECU Communications in Manassas, Virginia. They discuss the entrepreneurial spirit of the newest Americans - immigrants - and why they are twice as likely to start a business and create jobs.

Progressive Policy Study: Californians Dreamin’ While Jobs and People Leavin’

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with California Policy Center president Will Swaim about how the state’s ambitious policies have combined to stick its residents with the highest cost of living and a tax regime that discourages investment, innovation, and its vital entrepreneurial class.

Artur Sousa’s Social Entrepreneurship Pays Off

This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Artur Sousa, immigrant from Brazil and founder and CEO of Adopets, an online platform that simplifies the work done by shelters and improves the pet adoption experience. Adopets has over 40,000 registered users and maintains more than 300,000 adoption listings.

Karina Calderon on How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Help Cities Grow

This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Karina Calderon, deputy director of The Lawrence Partnership, about her work to help immigrant entrepreneurs drive economic growth in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The Lawrence Partnership is a collaboration of business and civic leaders started in 2015 that helps by incubating, training, assisting, loaning, basically doing everything they and their partners can to grow the city’s businesses.

Invisible Hand Revealed: Economic Lessons in Everyday Life

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Matthew Hennessey, Wall Street Journal editor and author of Visible Hand, A Wealth of Notions on the Miracle of the Market, about how the principles of economics manifest themselves in our every day lives and how we can use that insight to better understand our personal and civic choices.

Zoning Reform Revisited: Local Control Determines How, Not If, Housing Gets Built

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer research associate Andrew Mikula about the need for affordable housing near the mass transit network and the requirements and local design opportunities of the 3A zoning reform law. Read Pioneer Institute's recent public comment on this topic.

Evan Silverio Builds Upon Immigrant Mother’s Business Success

This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Evan Silverio, child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, President and CEO of Silverio Insurance Agency, and founder of Diverse Real Estate, both in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Abul Islam Helps Rebuild America’s Infrastructure

This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Abul Islam, immigrant from Pakistan and founder, President and CEO of AI Engineers. AI Engineers is a Connecticut-based consulting firm that builds and rehabilitates bridges, transportation systems and building systems throughout the U.S. Since 1991, Abul has created nearly 1,000 jobs and today leads a $50 million company. 

Roger Magalhaes Goes from Truck Driver to Industry Leader

This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Roger Magalhaes, immigrant from Brazil and founder of the firms Shades in Place window treatment installation and Trading Up Consulting, in Franklin, Massachusetts.