Thursday, October 25, 2012

U.S. still growing, Wisconsin still lagging

Had a person note on Facebook that "Dems were saying before the recall election that Wisconsin's economy was bad, but now they're saying that the U.S. economy is great. And Republicans are saying the exact opposite. Neither makes sense." Well, actually that's not true, as 3 reports in the last week show that the U.S. economy continues to grow, and may in fact have picked up speed in the recently-ended 3rd Quarter, while Wisconsin lags near the recession level.

The first example is in the jobs market. As has been mentioned several times in the last few weeks, U.S. unemployment dropped below 8% for the first time in Obama's term in September, and that the U.S. has gained private sector jobs for each of the last 31 months. Well, Wisconsin hasn't been quite so lucky, and while the state posted modest job gains in September, it was the first time since March that the state had 2 straight months of job growth. And with the news that the U.S. is looking at upwards revisions of 453,000 private sector jobs and 386,000 total jobs for 2012, the Walker jobs gap is now near 90,000 jobs in only 20 months.

And this is also reflected in Wisconsin losing its low-unemployment advantage. When Walker took office in 2011, Wisconsin's unemployment rate was 1.4% below the U.S. rate. In the 20 months since, 2/3 of that advantage is now gone, and Wisconsin's unemployment has gone up in 2012 while the U.S.'s has gone down.

Unemployment rates, Wisconsin vs. U.S.
Jan. 2011- Wis. 7.7%, U.S. 9.1%
Jan. 2012- Wis. 6.9%, U.S. 8.3% (both -0.8%)
Sept 2012- Wis. 7.3%, U.S. 7.8% (Wis. +0.4%, U.S. -0.5%)

Another way Wisconsin is lagging is in the housing market. A big economic headline this week was an 11 percent increase year-over-year in existing home sales prices, the seventh month in a row that prices have gone up for homes. But again, Wisconsin is not joining in the recovery, as the Wisconsin Association of Realtors shows median home sales prices in Wisconsin were only up 0.2% compared to September 2011, and are basically flat year-to-date.

Hmmm, you think cutting take-home pay for public employees and defunding public schools might have something to do with the stagnant Wisconsin home market? It is especially noteworthy that some of the most Baggerific places in Wisconsin are the ones suffering the home price decreases. Check out the changes in the SEWRPC counties surrounding Milwaukee- only Ozaukee saw an increase.

Median home sales price changes, Sept. 2011-Sept. 2012
Ozaukee +19.0%
Waukesha 0.0%
Washington -3.7%
Racine -5.7%
Kenosha -15.7%
Walworth -18.2%

Oh, but they saved $18 on their school taxes. Hope THAT was worth it.

And in the big picture economy, Wisconsin also lags. The Philly Fed Coincident index came out today, and it showed that we're barely keeping our heads above water in Wisconsin, with us turnng a sickly shade of green more befitting the Confederate states than the healthier shade that covers most of the Midwest (and Michigan is only declining after major increases earlier this year).

And it's not just a recent thing. Look at the growth rates over the last year for Wisconsin compared to the rest of our neighbors, and the country at large. Wisconsin has the worst economy in the Midwest and the U.S. has grown at a rate 3 1/2 times faster than we have.

Coincident index change, Sept. 2011-Sept. 2012

Ohio +5.64%
Ind. +4.98%
Ill. +3.06%
Mich +2.97%
U.S. +2.82%
Minn +2.59%
Iowa +1.94%
Wis. +0.80%

So to answer my friend's question- Yes, the Dems are correct. The national economy has grown over the last year, with that growth seeming to pick up a bit, while Wisconsin has flatlined and fallen behind. And yes, I absolutely lay this at the feet of Scott Walker and the Republican Wisconsin legislature. Keep both of these things in mind as you head to the polls over the next 12 days.

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