Saturday, May 18, 2013

How DWD tried to trick Wisconsin media on bad jobs numbers

Scott Walker's Department of Workforce Development may be stuck having to carry out lousy job policies, but they're sure good at spinning the awful results. Let's go back to Thursday and the timetable of the release of jobs information for the state of Wisconsin, and also let's go over the media's reaction, especially how many of them fell for this transparent ploy.

Thursday morning- the DWD comes out with a release saying "Wisconsin private sector added 62,072 jobs in 2011-2012." This basically was a recap of information the DWD recently sent for the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW), which is a more complete survey than the monthly jobs surveys, but also only goes through December 2012 as a result.

62,000 jobs created might sounds good on its face, but the release is intentionally deceiving, as "2011-2012" is really the two years of QCEW data from the end of 2010 through the end of 2012. It's an obvious attempt to give credit to Gov Walker for the increased jobs (as Walker took office in January 2011), and to get the number "62,000 jobs created" out into the media. In reality, this wasn't really new information, as the monthly surveys had shown Wisconsin had indeed gained around 53,000 total jobs and 56,000 private sector jobs in the same time period, so this wasn't that much different.

And while the DWD release promotes 62,000 added private sector jobs, what it leaves out is that this number lags the U.S. as a whole. In fact, if Wisconsin had kept up with the private sector job growth rate of the United States, WE WOULD HAVE GAINED OVER 100,000 JOBS, so Walker policies had cost the state nearly 40,000 jobs.

Remember, this is still in the morning, the April jobs numbers were to be released from DWD around Noon. My bullshit detectors were going off full-tilt, and I immediately knew these April numbers would suck, because there was no other reason not to release both the QCEW information and the April jobs numbers at the same time (as DWD had done in the past). The DWD was clearly hoping that the clueless Wisconsin media would run with the 62,000 number before the April numbers had to be released.

Sure enough they did, starting with the Journal-Sentinel, who threw out the 62,000 figure in their headline, and continuing with press releases within the hour from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald- almost as if they and the DWD were coordinating messages...almost.

The early release of the QCEW numbers also made the Assembly Dem leader Peter Barca and Senate Dem Leader Chris Larson feel they had to respond before the April jobs numbers hit, even though they should have been laying back for the jobs numbers, as they could have nailed a huge counterattack once they did come out, and also hammer on the Walker Administration's lack of integrity and sleaziness.

The April jobs numbers were released around Noon, and as I've noted in the past, the DWD buried the daylights out of the new data, because of the horrible numbers. Check out how they write the opening of the jobs release.
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revisions for March and preliminary estimates for April, covering unemployment and employment statistics for the state of Wisconsin. In brief, the estimates showed:

Place of work data: Upward revision to seasonally adjusted total job number in March by 1,500 to reflect fewer jobs lost than previously estimated. Upward revision to seasonally adjusted private sector job number in March by 1,200 to show an estimated gain of 100. (leaving out the fact that it still means there were 7,500 jobs LOST in March)

Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 7.1 percent in April, unchanged from the previous month. The rate is up from 6.9 percent in April 2012 and below the national unemployment rate of 7.5 percent. In addition, total employment rose by 7,800 in April 2013. This is a different survey than the jobs numbers they quoted in the previous paragraph, and the mixing of numbers is very cynical.

Comparison to latest available actual job counts: The latest available actual job counts show Wisconsin’s private sector created 62,072 jobs in 2011-12 following the loss of 134,000 jobs during the previous four years, representing the best two-year gains under any Governor since at least 2001. Not only is DWD using ANOTHER job stat- the QCEW - it's also making a foolish comparison of job growth in the Obama expansion to job performance in the midst of Bush's Great Recession.

And the next 2 pages rehash the QCEW release from earlier in the day, and give other out-of-context numbers (with no comparison to the U.S. or nearby states, the figures themselves are somewhat pointless). As I'm reading this, I know the numbers are horrible, but I don't know how bad. I had to dig down into bottom of Page 3, and look into the tables to find the part that says 22,600 jobs lost in the private sector, and 24,100 overall. At which point my jaw hit the floor.

Now some of the media eventually got around to putting up the real news of the day, which was the newly announced job losses, most notably the Madison-based Capital Times, (Todd Milewski has a strong interactive chart on the Walker jobs failure). And the DPW would later show the "big picture" chart by Friday.

But the Cap Times was the exception, which illustrates the success of the DWD's and WisGOP propaganda attempts. The media didn't give the "24,000 job losses" the attention it deserved, and it hasn't tried to mention how Wisconsin is falling further and further behind. We'll see if they catch up after they've had a week to digest just how awful the situation is (and if the DPW will make them have to notice).

I understand that government agencies can have a political role, since the heads of them are given their jobs by the Guv and his staff. But the steps the DWD has taken to avoid discussing how Wisconsin continues to fall short is very concerning, as these appointees seem to have chosen to trade in their duty to inform and serve the public in favor of being another arm of the Walker Campaign. And how this Administration seems more concerned with pulling a fast one on the media over actually putting in policies that could make Wisconsin an attractive place to do business is a major problem, and a definite symptom of the "politics over policy, where results don't matter" mentality that has pervaded life in Fitzwalkerstan since 2011. And helps explain why Wisconsin is dead last in jobs today.


  1. There's a longer history than just last Thursday's releases.

    Back in March when the BLS released the newly-benchmarked CES figures, the DWD's press release ( highlighted "The Federal government’s initial estimate for total non-farm jobs December 2012 was off by 67,100 when benchmarked"

    This was true, but the huge omission was that the December 2011 total non-farm jobs figure had also been revised upwards: by 50,700. While this didn't result in the headline the DWD clearly wanted, the J-S did nonetheless report that "revisions found that the preliminary estimates for total non-farm jobs last year undercounted non-farm job creation by 67,100, the agency said." ( - when in fact the agency actually said nothing of the sort and the revision to job creation was less than a quarter of that suggested in the reporting.


    On Thursday's news releases, I could tell that the April figures would be bad - really bad - because I was refreshing the DWD press release page like crazy. When the April jobs report first came out, it was truncated to the first two pages, which mentioned the flat 7.1% unemployment rate for April and the 7,800 gain in (household survey) employment and nothing else about April at all.

    The headline of the Journal-Sentinel's article that you link to went through many metamorphoses, which headlines of Journal-Sentinel articles on job figures seem peculiarly prone to. It started out leading with the 2-year 62,000 figure, then changed to the 24,000 loss for April before changing back to the 62,000 figure.


    Politifact's tracking of Walker's 250,000 private sector jobs promise last stood at 65,600 as of the preliminary March figures released last month ( With preliminary whole-year QCEW data available for 2012 now, by their methodology Thursday's releases will put Wisconsin's private sector job gains under Walker at 52,672 for the first 28 months.

    With that in mind, Wisconsin now only needs 10,000 more private sector jobs each month, every month for the next 20 in order to meet his promise. That's been achieved in single months precisely twice in the last 120 of benchmarked CES (September 2003 and July 2004).

    1. There are fewer and fewer ways to spin our likely last-place performance. Sadly they continue to find that single positive report that gets manipulated into a headline. My biggest fear is that the Walker admin actually believes we are doing well and that our jobs picture is improving; which means that the insanity of repeating the same thing to redundancy with the same last-place results will continue. We all suffer