LANSING, Mich. — The number of public employees in the state has been dropping since mid-2005 as the poor economy has forced school districts and governments to trim staff, adding to the state’s already high unemployment rate, according to a new report released Monday.

The study, by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, notes that local government employment levels dropped 6 percent between 2000 and 2008, while K-12 jobs dropped 12 percent, and state government jobs dropped 16 percent.

Michigan has had the nation’s highest jobless rate for most of the past four years, largely because of a huge drop in manufacturing jobs, many of them tied to the auto industry. But all sectors have been affected. The state jobless rate climbed to 15.3 percent last month, with Michigan losing more than 300,000 jobs in the past year and 827,400 since June 2000.

Public school teachers, state and local government employees, university and community college workers and those at public health care facilities make up about 17 percent of Michigan’s work force. They account for about 7 percent of total personal income in the state, with state and local government payrolls totaling about $24 billion annually.

“State and local public sector jobs, as evidenced by these payroll figures, are not an insignificant portion of Michigan’s economic base,” the report said.

It notes that some areas of public employment aren’t shrinking. Public sector jobs at hospitals rose 27 percent between 2000 and 2008, while jobs at public universities and community colleges rose 9 percent.

But state government is another story. The state’s civil service work force shed nearly 14 percent of its jobs between 2002 and 2004. While state jobs were more stable between December 2007 and June 2009, that’s partly because state government cut costs by using unpaid furloughs rather than more layoffs.

Since 2001, the state has seen its number of workers decrease 16 percent, dropping from around 63,000 workers to 53,200.

Looking ahead, CRC expects public employment to continue its downward trend, although the slide will be alleviated somewhat because of federal recovery act dollars.

A recent report on the jobs created or saved by the stimulus money shows around 14,500 of Michigan’s 19,500 total jobs tied to the stimulus money were at schools or related to education.

But the CRC report says those are the jobs that could see the biggest hit once the stimulus dollars disappear, since education makes up the biggest concentration of local public sector jobs.

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