What better place to dive into urban austerity than through the question of public employee layoffs? The New York Times editorial today is about the disproportionate impact of such layoffs on Black workers:

There were 20,000 government workers laid off last month, by far the largest drop for any sector of the economy, mostly from states, counties and cities.

That continues a troubling trend that’s been building for years, one that has had a particularly harsh effect on black workers. While the private sector has been adding jobs since the end of 2009, more than half a million government positions have been lost since the recession.

In most cases, states and cities had to lay off workers because of declining tax revenues, or reduced federal aid because of Washington’s inexplicable decision to focus more on the deficit in the near term than on jobs.

The editors also hint at the reconfiguring of urban governance that can follow such severe cuts:

Those layoffs mean a lower quality of life when there are fewer teachers, pothole repair crews and nurses. On Thursday, a deteriorating budget situation prompted what officials in Marion, Ind., called a “radical reorganization” of city services, which will result in the layoffs of 15 police officers (out of 58) and 12 firefighters (out of 50).

Researchers at the UC Labor Center have been working on the particularly harsh effects of the recession on Black workers, and their research on Black public workers is getting some attention. The NYT ran an article on it last week, featuring a report by Steven Pitts (pdf link). Researchers and some politicians have been at pains to emphasize the obvious point that cutting public spending produces job loss, a point that often gets lost in rhetoric about this recession. The evolution of budget cuts from the federal, state, and city governments, and the concussive waves of cuts that beget cuts as reserves are spent, public sector job loss further damages local revenues and taxes city services, belies the notion that a quick round of cuts will produce a quick recovery] The Times points out that not everyone sees public jobs as equal to private sector jobs:

Many Republicans, however, don’t regard government jobs as actual jobs, and are eager to see them disappear. Republican governors around the Midwest have aggressively tried to break the power of public unions while slashing their work forces…

Full article: Pain in the Public Sector – NYTimes.com.