Texas gained more than 77,000 government jobs from 2006 to 2011 – the most of any state and well ahead of runners-up Virginia, Maryland and Tennessee. That’s according to a new Business Journals analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In November 2011, Texas had 1,794,100 jobs in federal, state and local government, according to the Business Journals analysis. That’s up 4.5 percent from 1,716,500 in November 2006. Percentagewise, that was the eighth biggest jump in government jobs of any state. Texas’ rapid population growth helps explain why the number of government jobs has gone up so much.
But as Texas Gov. Rick Perry tries to regain ground in the Republican presidential race ahead of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, are those numbers a political plus or minus? Perry’s presidential campaign has touted his job-creation record in the Lone Star State – a record buoyed to some degree by Texas’ growth in federal employment – while he has promised to drastically reduce the size of the federal government.
Perry vows to freeze federal hiring until the federal budget is balanced. He also wants to shrink federal bureaucracy by “eliminating, combining or refocusing bloated federal agencies.” During a GOP debate in Michigan, Perry famously tripped up when struggling to list the three federal agencies that he wants to eliminate: the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.
Texas’ employment growth from June 2009 to July 2011 accounted for more than 40 percent of all U.S. jobs added during that period – a fact that Perry cites regularly on the campaign trail.
“Creating jobs in America is as simple as changing presidents. That is the choice facing Americans,” Perry said in October in pushing a plan to stimulate U.S. job growth.
An article in the San Antonio Express-News pointed out that Perry’s job-creation record in Texas has supported in large part by job growth in the government sector. One of every four jobs created in Texas since Perry took office in 2001 is in government, the newspaper said. Since Perry became governor, private-sector employment in Texas has risen by 10 percent, while government employment has jumped by 18.3 percent.
Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told the San Antonio Express-News that the governor’s focus always has been on private-sector jobs.
“That positive growth is the true indicator of economic strength,” Frazier said. “That’s where his focus remains. Regarding government jobs, those numbers are reflective of a booming population. Our state is growing by about 1,200 people a day. A large majority of that job growth is in the education sector, and it’s reflective of a growing population.”
Indeed, PolitiFact reported in September that the increase in state government jobs in Texas from January 2001 to July 2011 represented about 4 percent of Texas’ total employment boost. For local government jobs, it was 20 percent; for federal jobs, it was less than 2 percent.
Still, PolitiFact said, “a notable share of the job growth Perry touts on the campaign trail came from government jobs.”