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Economists: State Government Austerity Causing Double Dip Risk

September 12, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Last month's national job figures show 17,000 jobs were created by private businesses, but they were offset by 17,000 public employee lay-offs. Chad Stone, chief economist with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says the trend of state and local governments cutting back mostly hits public education. He says a big part of why the economy is back at risk is teacher layoffs as federal stimulus money runs out.

"We've seen increasing losses in jobs at the state and local government level, even as overall job creation has turned positive and the private sector is creating jobs."

Florida has an unemployment rate of 1.7 percent above the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Republicans in Congress have said cutting the deficit would spark job growth, but Stone says the opposite has happened. He calls it textbook economics: Government cuts make a recession worse.

"The argument for immediate sharp cuts in government spending, as a means to boost the economy, doesn't really square. It translates into less demand in the economy, less spending and fewer jobs."

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), companies have profits nearly one-third higher than they were before the recession started. Lawrence Mishel, EPI president, says the problem is not that companies don't have enough money to start hiring.

"Companies have plenty of profits they could reinvest; they have plenty of cash on hand. But they are not going to invest unless they have customers - consumers being able to spend."

He says the government has to stimulate demand because consumers cannot.

"Consumers are not going to be fueling a lot of consumption growth because they are beleaguered by heavy debt, by the loss of wealth from the financial crisis and by high unemployment. That's why the government has to step in."

Les Coleman, Public News Service - FL