Are Public Sector Jobs Recession-Proof? Were They Ever?

40 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2014 Last revised: 17 Jul 2021

See all articles by Jason Kopelman

Jason Kopelman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Harvey S. Rosen

Princeton University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: November 2014

Abstract

We use data from the Displaced Worker Survey supplements of the Current Population Survey from 1984 to 2012 to investigate the differences in job loss rates between workers in the public and private sectors. Our focus is on the extent to which recessions affect the differential between job loss rates in the two sectors. Our main findings include the following: First, taking into account differences in characteristics among workers does not eliminate sectoral differences in the likelihood of losing one’s job. After accounting for worker characteristics, during both recessionary and non-recessionary periods, the probability of job loss is higher for private sector workers than for public sector workers at all levels of government. Second, the probability of displacement for private sector workers increased during both the Great Recession and earlier recessions during our sample period. Third, it is less straightforward to characterize the experience of public sector workers during recessions. Job loss rates sometimes increased and sometimes decreased, depending on whether the employer was the federal, state, or local government. The impact of the Great Recession on displacement rates for public sector employees was somewhat different from that in previous recessions. Fourth, the advantage of public sector employment in terms of job loss rates generally increased during recessions for all groups of public sector workers. Thus, the answer to the question posed in the title is that public sector jobs, while not generally recession-proof, do offer more security than private sector jobs, and the advantage widens during recessions. These patterns are present across genders, races, and educational groups.

Suggested Citation

Kopelman, Jason and Rosen, Harvey S., Are Public Sector Jobs Recession-Proof? Were They Ever? (November 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20692, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2529845

Jason Kopelman (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Harvey S. Rosen

Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )

001 Fisher Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
8
Abstract Views
244
PlumX Metrics