Sunday, May 20, 2012

Walker budget cools off our record heat

Can't say I'm ready for it to feel like July, but can't say I'm complaining about it either. And it looks like it isn't going to stop for a while, with temperatures expected to stay in the 70s and 80s all week, well above what it often is for Memorial Day Weekend.

And it continues the pattern we've seen for 2012, where the NOAA notes that places like Madison have set records for the warmest first 4 months of a year.

This includes an April that was still above average in Wisconsin, albeit nor the records we aw in March. Much of the rest of the U.S. was even more above average in April and the U.S. is now at its hottest January-April and May-April period in 118 years of records.

So let's revisit something I was looking at earlier, to see if the warm weather was impacting jobs and spending in Wisconsin. The sectors I want to look at in particular are the construction, Leisure/Hospitality, and Retail trade sectors, because those would seem to be the most likely spots to have impacts from warm weather.

Wis. 2012 change in job sectors vs. 2011

Dec 2011-Feb 2012- +6,600 seasonally adjust. -8,100 non-seasonally adjust.
Dec 2010- Feb 2011- +3,500 s.a, -6,900 n.s.a (interesting in itself on the nsa and sa differences for the 2 years- could be some 2012 book-cooking in itself)

Feb 2012- Apr 2012- -6,000 s.a, +6,700 n.s.a
Feb 2011- Apr 2011- -600 s.a, +10,900 n.s.a

Well the weather didn't help construction hiring the last 4 months, that's for sure. In fact, there's 1,400 fewer (non-seasonal) Wisconsin workers in construction than there were at the end of 2011- a pretty remarkable feat by the Walker folks, given that Springtime is the usual ramp-up for construction hiring, and because we gained 4,000 construction jobs in a much colder 2011.

Dec 2011- Feb 2012- +3,000 s.a, -6,300 n.s.a
Dec 2010- Feb 2011- -2,300 s.a., -9,600 n.s.a

Feb 2012- Apr 2012- -2,200 s.a, +9,000 n.s.a
Feb 2011- Apr 2011- -600 s.a, +12,300 n.s.a

Within this is probably the best proof of a weather effect, because the 9,000 n.s.a increase in 2012 is pretty evenly spread between March and April, while the seasonally-adjusted numbers show +2,800 in March and -5,000 in April. Clearly Leisure/Hospitality people were hired in March instead of April this year, and the 70-degree March temperatures probably played a role.

Retail trade (n.s.a. losses in Dec-Feb due to XMas shopping ending)
Dec 2011- Feb 2012- -1,200 s.a., -23,300 n.s.a
Dec 2010- Feb 2011- +1,800 s.a., -21,700 n.s.a

Feb 2012- Apr 2012- +2,000 s.a., +4,300 n.s.a
Feb 2011- Apr 2011- +1,200 s.a., +4,900 n.s.a.

Unlike Leisure and Hospitality, this did not see the "March bump", so it seems that weather was a small factor at best for the retail trade sector. What seems to be a bigger factor for the indifferent retail sector is soft consumer spending in Wisconsin, as evidenced by Roundy's bad earnings in 1stQ 2012, which Chairman Bob blamed on "the consumer being not at all secure." As a result of that "insecure" consumer, sales in many of Roundy's markets (a large chunk of which are in Wisconsin) were weak in early 2012. Gee, you think cutting salaries and causing great job uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of public workers, as well as having the worst job performance in America might have something to do with that?

And that's what these stats really show to me. There's no doubt that the hot weather should be helping Wisconsin businesses in key sectors hire and increase sales, but Walker's dissastrous economic results is too strong of a headwind to overcome. The drop in construction employment is especially worrying, because there is evidence that stronger home sales were pushed ahead into March and April instead of the peak months of May and June.

So the question is- what happens if we're stuck with the dreadful Walker policies and the weather doesn't go our way, like with a brutal winter or rainy June that softens tourism spending? Do we even want to know how bad things would get in that instance?

Let's fire Walker on June 5 instead and not find out.

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