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

Jason L. Kopelman, Harvey S. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We use data from the Displaced Worker Surveys from 1984 to 2012 to investigate the differences in job loss rates between workers in the public and private sectors. Our focus is on how recessions affect the differential between job loss rates in the two sectors. We find that even after accounting for worker characteristics, the probability of job loss is higher for private sector workers than for public sector workers at all levels of government. The advantage of public sector employment in terms of job loss rates generally increases 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-396
Number of pages27
JournalPublic Finance Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Administration


  • job security
  • public sector employment
  • unemployment


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