Losses in the public sector provided a sour note in a generally upbeat jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), according to The Washington Post. While the overall economy added jobs in January, the public sector lost jobs for the third consecutive month, continuing a trend of the public sector slowing down a gradually improving economy.

Employers added 157,000 jobs in January, according to the BLS report. Revised estimates from previous months also showed much higher overall job creation than first reported, with the economy adding 247,000 jobs in November and 196,000 in December. Those figures represented a combined 127,000 jobs above earlier estimates, according to the Post.

But while the private sector added 166,000 jobs in January, the public sector continued bleeding jobs. Public sector employment fell by 9,000 jobs in January, 6,000 in December and 9,000 in November. Prospects loom for further losses in the public sector as Congress approaches a March 1 deadline for so-called sequestration cuts in federal spending, including funding for a range of state and local government programs.

Various analyses have consistently shown a declining public sector lagging an overall economic recovery. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that deep government spending cuts, primarily in defense, caused the nation’s economy to shrink by 0.1 percent in the third quarter of 2012.

 An earlier report from the Labor Department showed that the rate of union membership for U.S. workers has fallen to an all-time low, a decline fueled primarily by public sector job losses on the local level. Since September 2008, cities and counties have chopped more than 500,000 positions, the greatest reduction on record.