SALEM — In a delayed reaction from the Great Recession, employment numbers in Oregon state government fell last year.
Including higher education, where hiring has been strong, state government shed 500 jobs in 2012, according to statistics from the state Employment Department.
But because employment in the universities has been strong, the state payroll is still about 1,800 larger than four years previously.
In all, the state employed nearly 82,000 people at the end of last year — nearly 34,000 in the university system and nearly 48,000 in the rest of government, including about 12,000 home care workers, said Nick Beleiciks, a state employment economist.
The strength in state government payrolls through the recession is in contrast to the private sector and local governments, which started shedding jobs in 2008 and 2009, the Salem Statesman Journal reported Wednesday.
But during the recession, demand for state services rose in such areas as unemployment benefits, social services and education, and state government numbers were bolstered for a time by federal stimulus dollars.
"The stimulus impacts have sort of worked themselves out," Beleiciks said. "It wouldn't be a surprise to me to see state government losing jobs now."
Not counting higher education numbers, state government employment held flat in 2010 and declined in 2011 and 2012.
An example of the divergent trends: In 2011, the state added 500 jobs net, with the universities up 1,100 and the other agencies down 600. The statistics were not adjusted to account for seasonal differences.
State statistics show local government employment numbers continuing to shrink, while the private sector has been growing slowly, at the end of 2012, rising just above its 2004 level.
Beleiciks said the private sector's recovery has been so anemic because it essentially lost an entire industry.
"A lot of the jobs that were gained since 2004 were in the housing sector, and those haven't really come back at all," he said. "I don't think there's the anticipation of those construction jobs coming back any time soon."