Friday, December 9, 2016

Even with "help", manufacturing jobs sliding in WIsconsin

One of the biggest things that jumped out in this week’s “gold standard” jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is how American manufacturing suffered from the last half of 2015 to the middle of 2016. If you dial up the handy-dandy map from the Quarterly Census on Wages and Employment and look at manufacturing employment, you’ll see that the overwhelming majority of states in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains lost jobs in manufacturing between June 2015 and June 2016.

But let’s also remember that right-to-work (for-less) was signed into law in Wisconsin in March 2015, with Governor Walker and his fellow Koch/ALEC hacks promising that it would “free up” manufacturing jobs, and “worker freedom” would allow for a better quality of life for workers. So given that right-to-work (for less) was in place for this time period, let’s take a look and see how that theory worked out, shall we?

Manufacturing Job change, Jun 2015-Jun 2016
Wisconsin -2,735 (-0.6%)
Waukesha Co. -1,405 (-3.2%)
Racine County -550 (-2.9%)
Manitowoc Co. -464 (-4.7%)
Jefferson Co. -437 (-4.8%)
Milwaukee Co. -303 (-0.6%)

Change in Avg. Weekly Manuf. Wage Jun 2015-Jun 2016
Wisconsin +$6 (+0.6%)
Douglas County -$157 (-13.7%)
Washington Co. -131 (-11.5%)
Buffalo County -$90 (-13.4%)
Pepin County -$76 (-10.1%)
Ashland County -$69 (-7.6%)
Vernon County -$65 (-8.2%)

Guess that work-for-less thing wasn’t a cure-all (or a cure-anything), now was it?

And not only is work-for-less not a success in adding jobs, but it helps to allow Wisconsin manufacturers to continue to pay workers less than our Midwestern neighbors, and fail to give the raises that the states around us are.

Avg. Weekly Manuf. Wage, June 2016
Ill. $1,222 (+3.4%)
Mich $1,210 (+3.0%)
Minn $1,164 (+3.6%)
Ohio $1,089 (+2.4%)
Ind. $1,087 (-1.3%)
Wis. $1,027 (+0.6%)
Iowa $1,025 (+0.6%)

Oh, but Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and other corporate oligarchs claim there’s a “skills gap” or “geography gap” and imply that it’s the workers’ fault for not being good enough to hire in their community. Maybe that’s because YOU FUCKHEADS ARE NOT PAYING MARKET VALUE, and people are moving to places where they can get paid what they’re really worth. So maybe we need to stop allowing the regressive dimwits in the Wisconsin business community to run our state’s industrial and economic policy, and return a voice to the actual people who create these widgets- the workers.


But NOOOOOOO!

Instead the people in many of these counties that saw manufacturing suffer over the last year decided to return the same Republican state legislators that voted for the policies that helped cause this mess, while turning around and voting for Trump to “change it and fix it” in DC. While I agree that President Obama and corporatist DNC hacks saying “TPP is a good thing” and Dems saying “we’re going to continue our direction” wasn’t a way to connect with the real problems that were afflicting people here in the Midwest, maybe a lot of the fault lies in the Koch/ALEC-GOPs that are running the state into the ground here.

And maybe the workers and voters in those communities “represented” by those Koch/ALEC-GOPs need to hold those fuckers accountable too, instead of only taking it out on the Black Man in the White House and “That Nasty Woman.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Duffy, WisGOPs could learn a lot from "Communist" Madison

You may have heard about the recent kerfuffle involving a certain former reality show member ripping on the town that I call home.
Rep. Sean Duffy, of Wausau, called Madison a "communist community" in a recent Fox News interview and blasted the ongoing presidential recount. Duffy says, "It's a sad state of affairs for these Democrats who don't believe in democracy and freedom and free elections."

The comments drew a rebuke from Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan who on Wednesday called for an apology.

Duffy responded on Twitter by saying "the PC crowd is humorless. For those offended by my 'communist' comment, I'll send a therapy dog to your 'safe place' of choice in Madison."
Classy stuff from Sean (from the Real World), and so typical of a dumb-assed right-winger to whine about others taking offense to his idiotic statements.

I won’t go into the other part of the BS that Duffy gave on Fox News, where he lied and said Dane County was the only place in Wisconsin counting ballots by hand for the presidential recount (nearly 2/3 of the state’s counties are doing that). Instead I’ll go into how absurd his dated “Communist” label is for us in Madtown. Because Sean, the facts show that we’re not the ones who “don’t get it” in 2016, it’s you that doesn’t have a clue about the way things work these days.

You see Sean, in the actual Real World, us Madison hippies are so Communistic that we have twice the job growth of any other county in Wisconsin… in the private sector. These numbers come from yesterday’s release of the “gold standard” Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

June 2015- June 2016 private sector job growth
Dane County +8,555
Kenosha Co. +3,932
Waukesha Co. +3,214
Winnebago Co. +2,288
Outagamie Co. +1,537
Wood County +1,146
Ozaukee Co. +1,132
Rock County +978
OTHER 64 COUNTIES +2,323

The only place on that list that’s even partly in Duffy’s district is Wood County, and even that comes with a major caveat, as Wood County lost nearly 5,500 jobs between June 2012 and June 2015, and is still 3,900 jobs behind what they had when Sean Duffy and Scott Walker assumed office in Wisconsin in 2011.

In fact, out of the 26 Wisconsin counties that are part of Duffy’s gerrymandered district, over half of them lost private sector jobs over the last year while Dane County was booming. This helps to explain the resentment that Sean from the (not very) Real World is trying to tap into- the fact that educated, more urbane places with a high quality of life have succeeded in recent years, while less-educated rural places are economically stagnant, or downright dying.

But instead of ripping on “Communistic” Madison, maybe Duffy and his fellow WisGOPs should take a few tips on how to grow jobs in the 21st Century from us. Not only have we kicked the rest of the state’s ass over the last 12 months, but the same pattern holds for the last 5 YEARS.

Private sector job growth, June 2011- June 2016
Dane County +30,797
Milwaukee Co. +16,708
Waukesha Co. +16,668
Kenosha Co. +10,016
Brown County +7,057
Rock County +6,492
Outagamie +5,953
Marathon Co. +5,246
OTHER 64 COUNTIES +63,469

Again, only one county in Duffy’s district appears- Marathon County, and it is well behind those Dem voters in Dane and Milwaukee Counties. The fact that the other 64 counties have an average net gain of less than 1,000 jobs over the last 5 years seems like a damning indictment of the 2010s economy, and especially the Walker/WisGOP policies that have been in place since then.

This is what’s funny about Duffy’s lame resentment play- his constituents in the 715 actually are getting screwed over by “those people in Madison.” But it ain’t liberal eju-kay-teds like me that are doing it. It’s the regressive GOP “representatives” that they keep returning to the Legislature. Can you tell me how allowing major giveaways to corporate Wisconsin (through the WEDC slush fund and tax cuts) while defunding rural public schools gives any benefit to northern Wisconsin? And how is allowing mega-farms and polluters to spoil the environment of that naturally beautiful area anything that is going to make Northern Wisconsin a more attractive place to live and raise a family in?

Dane County State Senator Jon Erpenbach summed up this hypocrisy of 715 Republicans quite well in a Facebook exchange where Erpenbach responded to concerns by former State Rep. Gary Sherman. Sherman used to represent the Superior area in the Assembly, and said that Dems need to do more outreach to Northern Wisconsin. Erpenbach replied
It’s not Dane County legislators voting against the Northwoods for expanding broadband or more funding for rural schools or roads or healthcare. Every single GOP elected official from the Northwoods votes against the Northwoods. They voted against those things. As for Sean Duffy, making $176,000 or Tom Tiffany taking away all local control. They justify their votes against the Northwoods by blaming Dane County so they can hold onto their jobs.
Along those same lines, can you tell me one thing Sean Duffy has done that has helped Northern Wisconsin over the nearly 6 years he has been in office? I don’t see a lot of votes to protect natural resources from the Kochs’ boy, do you? And this guy has been among the no-solutions clown show that has continually voted to repeal Obamacare, and likely will try to mess it up for good next year. This is despite the fact that the relatively low-income residents of the 7th district are the Wisconsinites most likely to get insurance through the Obamacare exchanges. Note this stat from 386/> this article from 3 weeks ago in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
In rural areas like Vilas County, which Trump carried by more than 26 percentage points, residents over the past year enrolled in the subsidized private exchanges at nearly 2 1/2 times the rate of Wisconsin as a whole. In Taylor County, where the president-elect won almost 3 to 1, consumers also are signing up for coverage in the Obamacare exchanges at rates much higher than average.
Both of those counties are in Sean Duffy’s district, yet Taylor County gave Duffy 74% of the vote last month, and Vilas County gave him 66%. So apparently they think the slide downward is a fun trip or something, or maybe the many people in the 7th District that are close to the economic edge need to take a closer look at what the fake lumberjack is doing when he flies away to DC, and realize that his real bosses aren’t the people he allegedly “represents” (his wife, Road Rules Rachel, may be even worse. When she’s not having another kid, she parlays her ethnicity into big bucks being a token for the Kochs’ “Libre Intiative”).

No one can explain why Sean Duffy is having such a problem dealing with Dane County’s reality better than longtime Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who released a statement on the matter today. Here it is, in full.
I apologize to Congressman Duffy for referring to him as a moron. I should have said he is a liar and a charlatan.



Maybe Northern Wisconsin should ask why that guy dancing in the window is ripping on "Communist" Madison, instead of wanting to make their communities in the 715 as vibrant as what we have every day in Dane County. Just a thought.

Wisconsin slower job growth in "gold standard" report....but also improves?

Yesterday featured the release of the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it was something I had anticipated to for a while, after the pre-release of Wisconsin’s figures last month. I figured that Wisconsin would look awful in this report, because our 1.02% increase in private sector jobs was the worst we’d seen for a quarter-end figure in 6 years, and it was well below the growth rate we saw in the US over that time period. You may remember this graph from a post I made few weeks back.



It turns out I was wrong on that assumption of awfulness, and some of that might help to explain the pro-Trump election results here in the Midwest.
Wisconsin ranked 30th in the nation in private sector job growth from June of 2015 through June of 2016 under the latest "gold standard" job numbers released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Private sector jobs grew here by roughly 1 percent over the 12-month period, trailing only Michigan and Indiana among Midwest states. The national growth rate was 1.6 percent.
Yes, we’re still in the bottom half of states in the nation for the 20th straight quarter under Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP, and that’s an unacceptable number. But it’s interesting (and a bit scary) to note that this actually put us in the top half of the Midwest over that same time period, and I'll even add in Pennsylvania to this list, due to their "blue to red" election status.

Private sector job growth, Midwest June 2015-June 2016
Mich +1.99%
Ind. +1.46%
Wis. +1.02%
Ohio +0.95%
Minn +0.89%
Penn +0.55%
Ill. +0.44%
Iowa +0.13%

Gee, you wonder why some people in Big Ten country felt so desperate for a change in the economy (or were embittered by the stagnation) that they voted for a dimwitted lout like Donald fucking Trump in the (misguided) hope that somehow he could turn the trend around?

This helps to explain why these people seemed to ignore the reality that the US economy as a whole was doing well, because in their immediate world, things probably weren’t so hot. Whether that’s by GOP/ALEC sabotage at the state level or a larger issue where national job losses in manufacturing and other industries hit harder in the Midwest than most, I'll leave that up to you. But you can see where a lot of people in the Midwest had good reason to feel left out of the prosperity that seemed to be prevalent in much of the rest of the country.

In Wisconsin, the disparity was obvious within the state as well. While a few select areas were practically booming (Dane County gained over 8.500 private sector jobs, and Kenosha County had a 7.8% jump nearing 4,000), over 1/3 of the state’s counties lost private sector jobs between June 2015 and June 2016. And many of those counties were in the less-educated and more rural parts of the state that shifted hard for Donald Trump in this last election.

However, if you spread the state stats out over the last 5 years, Wisconsin resumes its now-usual spot as a Midwestern laggard, as we started out behind in the early 2010s, and haven’t gotten any better. Only the near-zero job growth in Illinois and Iowa in the last year is the only reason Wisconsin is able to stay out of the cellar for our part of the country in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.



Which goes back something I wondered about in the wake of the Election- when do the small-town Wisconsinites unhappy over the lack of job opportunities turn their legitimate anger onto the Republicans that have been running the state (into the ground) for nearly 6 years? And will they have the guts to shake off their tribalism and self-centeredness to identify the real enemy, and throw those bums out? I go back and forth between hope, anger, and disgust in my predictions on the answer to those questions.

WRS pension still strong, and shouldn't be targeted

It was a late Friday afternoon info release that generally was ignored by media, but the Legislative Audit Bureau released its latest update on the finances of the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), with numbers updated as of the end of calendar year 2015.

And despite the lack of media attention, I think the report had a few items worthy of notice, not the least of which is the fact that the WRS isn’t fully-funded anymore.
As of December 31, 2015, the WRS has a fiduciary net position of $88.5 billion. When the total pension liability of $90.1 billion is subtracted from the fiduciary net position of the WRS, a net pension liability of $1.6 billion results as of December 31, 2015. As shown in Table 3, this is a decrease of $4.1 billion from the net pension asset of $2.5 billion reported as of December 31, 2014.
So why did the WRS finances slip in 2015? Two big reasons- a decline in the stock market and an additional 6,200 retirees being added to the beneficiary pool.
Contributions to the WRS from employers and employees remained relatively stable at $1.9 billion in 2014 and in 2015. Net investment income, which is the sum of realized and unrealized gains and losses less SWIB’s investment expenses, declined from $4.9 billion in 2014 to a loss of $675.0 million in 2015, or by 113.8 percent. The decrease in net investment income reflects the declines in investment returns realized by the Core and Variable Funds. As reported by SWIB, the gross investment return of the Core Fund declined from 5.7 percent in 2014 to a loss of 0.4 percent in 2015, and the fiduciary net position of the WRS as of December 31, 2015, was $88.5 billion. Net investment income declined from $4.9 billion in 2014 to a loss of $675.0 million in 2015 due to declines in the investment returns of the Core and Variable Funds.

The investment return of the Variable Fund declined from 7.3 percent in 2014 to a loss of 1.2 percent in 2015. Total WRS benefit payments provided to retired participants or their beneficiaries increased from$4.5 billion in 2014 to $4.8 billion in 2015, or by 6.3 percent. The number of retired participants increased from 185,600 as of December 31, 2014, to 191,800 as of December 31, 2015. The average annual annuity paid increased from $24,185 in 2014, to $24,780 in 2015, or by 2.5 percent.

Now it’s not like we are in any kind of pension crisis because of this- the WRS fund is still 98.2% funded and besides, that figure is always based on the recipients taking all of their money out at once (a scenario that won’t happen in the real world). In addition, the current system makes adjustments when it is less than 100%. Both the employer and employee pension contributions go up from 6.6% this year to 6.8% in 2017 to help pick up the slack, and the annuity for retirees in 2016 only went up by 0.5% for those in the Core Fund and actually went down by 5% for those in the Variable Fund.

Interestingly, the celebration of the reopening of the casino run up on Wall Street that’s happened in the 4 weeks since Trump was allegedly elected president will probably firm up the WRS, at least for next year. As of today, the S&P 500 has jumped 4.6% since Election Day, and is now up over 9.5% for the year, putting it above the 7.2% benchmark that the WRS counts on to cover its expenses in a given year. So if the GOP or other privateers try to claim that the WRS is shaky, they need to be confronted with the fact that the WRS may well be back to fully funded at the end of 2016, with payments to retirees likely to rise as well.

But what’s also interesting about the WRS being under 100% at the end of 2015 is that it takes away a potential target for Governor Walker and the GOP to raid in case the state budget implodes. When it was $2.5 billion in the black at the end of 2014, it would seem that taking some of that extra money to plug a one-time hole would be a tempting move for a group of Bubble-Worlders who want to claim “we balanced the budget without raising taxes.” Now with the pension technically underfunded, it’s not fiscally feasible (and possible illegal) to do so, since it would endanger current and future payments that have been made.

There’s also an intriguing breakdown in the LAB report of who owes the relatively small amount of pension liability in the WRS, with the largest employers being state agencies and the UW System.
As shown in Table 4, the ten largest WRS participating employers were allocated a total of $669.9 million, or 41.2 percent of the $1.6 billion net pension liability as of December 31, 2015. In comparison, these same participating employers were allocated $1.0 billion, or 41.0 percent of the $2.5 billion net pension asset as of December 31, 2014. The proportionate share of the net pension liability for State of Wisconsin agencies as of December 31, 2015, was $456.1 million, of which $220.8 million related to the University of Wisconsin (UW) System. The net pension liability for the state agencies will be included in the State’s GAAP-based financial statements, which will be published in the State’s CAFR for the year ended June 30, 2016.
This may be worth keeping track of in case the Legislature and/or Governor tries to spin off part of all of the UW System. While I support doing so for UW-Madison and UW-Extension (as I explained here), one of the questions that would have to be cleared up would be whether that pension liability would be shifted to the spun-off UW entities, or kept under state control at the WRS. As an example, the UW Hospital and Clinics became a separate entity several years ago, but still has its retirement assets in the WRS, with their share of the pension liability running around $52.8 million at the end of 2015.

So while this LAB report on the WRS may have flown under the radar, keep it in the back of your mind if GOP dipshits like Sen. Dewey Stroebel try to change the system to “make it more solvent.” There is no problem with the WRS’s financing, even with this temporary drop below 100% funding, and in fact it remains the model by which all other public pension plans should follow in terms of fiscal stability and responsibility.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The 262 WisGOP solution to the DOT deficit- screw workers!

With tomorrow’s public hearing at the Capitol on the 2017-19 budget request from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, it’s a good time to examine the picture on the tough choices we have going forward, and to have a heads-up on the regressive and foolish solutions some elected may have to solve this $880 million deficit.

First off, let’s review where we are at. Here’s how the Legislative Fiscal Bureau spelled out the DOT highway spending situation as reflected in the 2017-19 budget request. The LFB also added up the amount of highway spending cuts that had to be made to limit expenses to where they were.
The attached table indicates that the funding for the state highway improvement program totals $2,835.3 million for the 2015-17 biennium. This level of funding is less than the amount that DOT indicated during the 2015-17 budget deliberations was needed to keep the Zoo Interchange project, funded from the southeast Wisconsin freeway megaproject program, and four major highway development projects, funded from the major highway development program, on their projected completion deadlines. As a result, the 2015-17 budget level for these programs will result in delays in these projects, as well as delay some projects in the state highway rehabilitation program.

Under the Department's budget request, funding for the state highway improvement program would total $2,386.0 million. This amount would result in $449.3 million less in total program funding for the state highway improvement program compared to the funding provided in the 2015-17 biennium, which would represent a 15.8% decrease. Given the size of the reduction in funding available under DOT's request for the southeast megaprojects and majors programs as compared to the current biennium, there would be additional delays to currently enumerated projects in these programs, as well as delays in other planned, future projects.
So those are the cuts we are looking at in the DOT’s “no-tax, no-fee” budget request, which was done at Gov Walker’s behest.

TeaBagging State Senators Dewey Stroebel and Chris Kapenga took the opposite approach, and asked the Legislative Fiscal Bureau what kind of gas tax increases we would need to fund DOT needs without having to borrow more. The LFB response was broken down into 2 scenarios- Scenario 1 had all $1.8 billion in DOT needs funded over the next 2 years, and Scenario 2 had the $462 million in borrowing proposed in Governor Walker’s budget replaced by gas tax increases.
Under both scenarios, as shown in the "Increase Transportation Fund Revenue" section of Table 3, the funding gaps would be eliminated by increasing the motor vehicle fuel tax rate. The motor vehicle fuel tax revenue estimates in this memorandum assume an effective date of August 1, 2017. With regard to Scenario 1, increasing the motor vehicle fuel tax rate by 28.1 cents to 59.0 cents per gallon would result in an estimated $1,795.7 million in additional transportation fund revenue in the 2017-19 biennium. Similarly, for Scenario 2, increasing the motor vehicle fuel tax rate by 7.2 cents to 38.1 cents per gallon would result in an estimated $460.1 million in additional transportation fund revenue in the biennium. This estimated revenue would be appropriated to the state highway improvement program to fund these scenarios. Any additional revenue collected beyond the amount required to fund each scenario would accrue to the balance of the transportation fund.
A positive to increasing the gas tax is that the state wouldn’t have to pay another $29 million to pay back the added debt in the 2017-19 budget, as well as the hundreds of millions that it’ll cost to pay back the rest of that debt in future budgets. But suburb Sens. Stroebel and Kapenga are yapping about how there should be NO need for increasing taxes at all, and instead they argued that highway spending should be cut further.
Senator Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), who requested the memo, said, “As one of the first CPA’s in history elected to the state legislature, I consider it my job to analyze numbers and protect our taxpayers when government comes asking for more of their paycheck. We are already in the highest tier in the nation for the gas tax, and our total transportation revenues have increased every year for the past 20 years. We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem. That’s where the focus needs to be, which is why I support Governor Walker’s plan, where taxes are not raised.”

“If the #JustTaxIt coalition get their way, Wisconsin’s tax climate will move in the wrong direction,” echoed Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg). “Some have accused the Governor of‘drawing a line in the sand.’ If that is their definition of keeping campaign promises and sticking to conservative principles, they have been Madison politicians far too long. Senator Kapenga and I come from the private sector where tough decisions are made daily. Rather than produce dog and pony show social media posts, I hope the #JustTaxIt coalition will soon release their specific plan.”



(Side note- I love how CPAs and “small business owners” think they’re the only people on the earth that understand taxes, spending and budgets. All these people know how to is to game the tax system to lessen revenue, and they don’t have a damn clue about the economic benefits of paying good wages or making government investments. That cluelessness and arrogance probably helps explain why they chose their career paths in the first place).

Well, if it’s spending cuts the suburb boys want, then I say we should cut off any expressway resurfacing or repair for I-94 in Waukesha County as well as stop work on the Zoo Interchange and I-41 and I-43 north of Milwaukee, since those are the projects that residents in their districts will be most affected by. And if state funding of local highway maintenance needs to be cut anywhere in the state, then start in the WOW Counties. Step up or shut up, guys, because many of us are tired of subsiding your wasteful lifestyle in Sprawlville.

Of course, that’s not what these dingbats really want to do. They think they can keep on building and avoid tax increases by getting “savings” via cutting wages of the people who work on the highways, along with cutting the amount of projects. Less projects and less pay, now THAT will grow an economy! (excuse me, I have to slam my head on my desk. )

Yep, that’s the WisGOP Bubble World Wing’s plan- screw workers and unions even more, as outlined by Brookfield State Rep. Rob Hutton in a letter he sent to other GOP legislators today.
With a challenging upcoming biennial budget, which will potentially include significant investments in vertical and horizontal infrastructure, we have to continue giving taxpayers a voice by finding ways to fund projects as cost effectively as possible. Eliminating the prevailing wage requirement on all state funded projects will help accomplish this goal by removing archaic government formulas that artificially raise the cost of construction. This would open up projects to more competition, allowing for different designs and techniques that can be considered at lower costs.

Paired with prevailing wage repeal, I will be introducing legislation to reform project labor agreement (PLA) laws. PLA requirements serve as another barrier to free, open markets that promote competition and the best services for the state. While each PLA law is different, examples of the usual restrictions require a construction project to be awarded only to contractors and sub-contractors that agree to:

·Only hire employees from the local union hiring hall, even if the company has employees who are not members of the union.

·Pay into the union pension fund, even though its employees may never receive a union pension benefit.

·Recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job.

·Use the union hall to obtain workers.

·Obey union apprenticeship and work rules.
See, in 262 WisGOP Land, only campaign contributors and the “business-owning class” can join forces as a group to better their situation. You people that actually WORK? You’re on your own, pal.

Keep an eye on all of this going forward, not just the continuation of the War on Workers, but also as to whether the GOPs in the Legislature choose borrowing, taxes, or more potholes as their path over the next two years. And Dems shouldn’t give these guys any cover in trying to solve the problem that WisGOPs have inflicted onto themselves and the state’s motorists.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Your weekend recount update

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has done a good job keeping people updated on the communities that have finished recounting the votes in the 2016 presidential election. You can click on this link to see all the wards that have and have not been completed, and figure out where we stand.

The Elections Commissions describes some of the disparities that have shown up recently.
Eau Claire County: Increase of 11 votes in Town of Brunswick and 13 votes in Town of Seymour due to ballots marked incorrectly on Election Day.

Manitowoc County: Increase in 24 votes in Town of Centerville due to a stack ballots missed on Election Day.

Walworth County: Increase in 10 votes in Town of Whitewater Wards 1-2 due to ballot jams on Election Day.

Washburn County: Discrepancies in Town of Bashaw were due to an error in the previous certification. The total ballots for Trump/Pence should have been 385 instead of the 352 reported.
The Elections Commission didn't mention that the increase in 24 votes in Manitowoc County all were for Hillary Clinton. Here are a few other "misses" that seem noteworthy.

Some votes in the Dane County City of Monona were missed, allowing Hillary Clinton to gain 21 votes there.

Some part of the vote of the Walworth Town of La Grange was missed on the original canvass, enabling Clinton to gain another 18 votes.

UPDATED SECTION- The Iowa County Village of Avoca originally listed 300 votes that were missed, giving Clinton a gain of 163, and Gary Johnson another 30 votes, among others. However, it turned out to be a mistype, as those were the total of the Village of Barenveld, and the figures were placed on the wrong line. This has now been corrected on the Elections Commission's sheet.

With that correction, that makes my rough spreadsheet calculation showing that, Trump has gained 12 votes on Clinton in the recount (138-126 added), Stein has gained 50 votes, and Gary Johnson 38. But the key caveat is that not only is there still 3/4 of the votes to be registered in the recount, and most of the wards in the larger cities have yet to be registered (something I am especially interested in seeing due to the big drop in turnout in blue cities like Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha).

Lastly, here a list of counties that have no places with reports of their votes in any of their communities. Maybe they'll all dump it at once, but keep an eye on this.

Ashland
Bayfield
La Crosse
Langlade
Lincoln
Oconto
Pepin
Rusk
Sheboygan
Taylor
Vernon
Waukesha (Uh oh!!!)

La Crosse and Vernon at least get a pass because they've been busy on the State Senate recount between Dem Leader Jen Shilling and Dan Kapanke (Shilling won, as both candidates conceded late last week). But what about these other guys?

Nothing too big yet, but follow the Jill Stein site to get reports from counties throughout the state by observers. Mostly positive and indicating things are on the up-and-up so far, but also interesting to see the word from the ground.

November jobs show Obama handing off a solid US economy to Trump

Assuming Donald Trump does become president next month, he can't say Barack Obama left a mess for him to clean up when it came to the US jobs market. Friday's November jobs report reiterated that, with the big news probably being the drop in the unemployment rate to 4.6%, the lowest we have seen since August 2007.

That decline comes from a combination of good and bad statistics.

Seasonally-adjusted change from October 2016
Labor Force -226,000
Employed +160,000
Unemployed -386,000

These positive stats seem a bit much for one month, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of that 0.3% drop in November is reversed next month. But there is no doubt that the jobs market remains near full employment as the Obama Presidency ends, which is a pretty remarkable accomplishment given the wreck he inherited in January 2009 (and do you have any doubt Drumpf and the GOP will mess it up if given the chance?).

On the jobs totals side, we saw a trend of decent-but-not-great growth continue in November, and staying slightly below the strong pace we saw last year. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 178,000 in November. Thus far in 2016, employment growth has averaged 180,000 per month, compared with an average monthly increase of 229,000 in 2015. In November, employment gains occurred in professional and business services and in health care....

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised up from +191,000 to +208,000, and the change for October was revised down from +161,000 to +142,000. With these revisions, employment gains in September and October combined were 2,000 less than previously reported. Over the past 3 months, job gains have averaged 176,000 per month.
It sure beats talking about the hundreds of thousands of jobs a month that we were losing the last time we had a new president taking over, but it's also noteworthy that these figures indicate a near full-employment situation, and it may be hard to have a much higher rate of growth at this time or going forward.

A look inside the sectors shows that some seasonal anomalies played a role in how the employment report looked, but that they likely canceled themselves out in the big picture. For example, Construction was a standout part of this report, with a gain of 19,000 on a seasonally-adjusted basis. However, seasonally-adjusted is a key word, as much of the Northern part of the country was seeing unusual warmth in mid-November, when the monthly survey was taken. The 19,000 "increase" is really a reflection of lower-than-normal seasonal layoffs of 78,000, which makes me concerned that this number changes now that the weather finally has cooled and the snow is apparently starting to fly.

A seasonal blip may also be the reason for a 15,400 increase in local government employment, as the election was held on the week of the survey, and it is not hard to suggest that much of that increase is temporary workers manning the polls. On a related point, don't be shocked if there is a similar increase in Wisconsin's December employment due to temporary workers helping out with the recount.

But seasonal factors also seemed to be a factor in a sizable drop in retail trade employment, as hiring for the Christmas shopping season hadn't happened as much when the survey was taken. The sector as a whole had been adding nearly 21,000 jobs a month since November 2015, but had a seasonally-adjusted "loss" of 8,300 jobs in November. This is despite retail actually adding 371,200 people on a non-seasonal basis, and clothing and accessory stores were especially notable in this trend, as 94,000 new workers translated into a loss of 17,600 seasonally-adjusted jobs. We'll see if that snaps back in December, as the real season kicks into full swing- or we'll find out if malls and brick-and-mortar stores are dead and this is a sign of it.

The last part of the equation involves wages, which had a correction from a sizable jump in October.
In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 3 cents to $25.89, following an 11-cent increase in October. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees edged up by 2 cents to $21.73 in November.
Wage growth is something we will need to look at in the coming (gulp) Trump presidency, because a lot of the blue-collar types who voted for Trump were hoping that their wages and job prospects could include. If wage growth stays at 2.5% or goes down, especially with oil and gasoline prices rising in the near future, watch for those voters to turn their frustrations on the same politicians they helped elect in 2016.

So in summary, it appears the US jobs market is staying in the same decent-but-not-great situation that we've seen over the last year. Which makes it all the more concerning that the Republicans in charge of things in DC and the states seem determined to change it all, and likely not to the benefit of the vast majority of Americans.