Monday, March 17, 2014

Will gov't jobs get Walker closer to 250,000? Not likely

The follow-up to January's big Wisconsin jobs report came today, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics releasing the state-by-state jobs report. Given that this includes the updated 2013 numbers for all states, it's a big benchmark to see where Wisconsin is measuring up to everyone else. What this report indicates is that 2013 was an improved year for state job creation, but the Walker Administration shouldn't break out the party hats. And that reason is because a lot of the added jobs weren't in their beloved private sector, but instead in government, and the first two years in Fitzwalkerstan were so bad that Wisconsin still greatly trails most of their neighbors.

Page 8 of the BLS report shows Wisconsin as one of 28 states in the country with "statistically significant employment changes from January 2013 to January 2014," with 56,100 jobs added in that time. Wow, 56,100 jobs! That's a pace nearing the 250,000 goal that then-candidate Walker set in 2010. Maybe it really IS working, and all of a sudden businesses are hiring right and left, just like this desperate Governor has been trying to tell people as the November race has tightened?

Ahh, maybe not. If you go to Page 16, you'll see this statistic on the right-hand part of the page.

Government jobs, Wisconsin
January 2013 408,600
January 2014 423,800

That's right, the "small government" Walker Administration has overseen the addition of 15,200 government jobs in the last year. This accounts for more than 27% of the job growth in the state in the last year, which is a stat you can bet won't be brought up by Walker at any of the "job announcement/ campaign events" that he's been frequenting in recent weeks. In fact, only one other state has added more public sector jobs in the last 12 months than Wisconsin, and that one state is a whole lot bigger than we are.

Most government jobs added, January 2013- January 2014
Tex. +28,500
Wis. +15,200
Haw. +5,100
Mo. +4,900
Cal. +3,900
Utah +3,900

It still wasn't a bad year for private sector job growth in Wisconsin, as the 40,900 jobs added are the biggest increase of Walker's 3 years in charge. This 1.71% increase landed Wisconsin 3rd in the Midwest for private-sector job growth behind first-place Minnesota (2.14%) and Indiana (1.78%). However, this decent performance in the last year doesn't make up for the 2 awful years before it, as Wisconsin still lags nearly every one of its neighbors- only the FIBs keep us out of the basement. And our blue-voting neighbors in Minnesota have massively outperformed the folks on the other side of the St. Croix.

Private sector job growth, Midwest Jan 2011- Jan 2014
Mich +6.96%
Minn +6.52%
Ind. +5.74%
Ohio +5.55%
Iowa +4.67%
Wis. +4.52%
Ill. +3.37%

Even with the increases in the last year Wisconsin has still only added 107,400 jobs since Walker took office, and 105,100 in the private sector. Neither of those numbers are even halfway to 250,000. And with the unemployment claim increases that we saw in February, it's unlikely that month's report will be one with good job numbers when that comes out later this month, putting them even further behind the 250,000-job pace.

In addition, Wednesday's release of the "gold standard" Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages through September won't include the big job increases of the 4th Quarter, so Wisconsin will likely have another national ranking in the 30s or 40s. No wonder that the Walker Administration rushed out a lame press release touting cherry-picked numbers from this month's BLS report, because the big picture over the last 3 years sucks, and the stats coming out for the rest of this month likely will as well. No wonder this flailing Administration is trying to shove out the good news wherever they can find it, because it's still dismal overall.


  1. Well, the facile answer to your headline is "probably not since the 250k promise is for private sector jobs only".

    Of Wisconsin's January 2013 - January 2014 government jobs growth of +15,200, -700 were in the Federal government sector, +9,800 in the State government sector and +6,100 in the local government sector.

    So it's not some Federal project winding up on the down low that is responsible for these total government figures.

    I'll be extremely surprised if CES' 2013Q4 gain of +19,500 is reflected when the December QCEW figures come out. The CES 2013Q3 gain is +5,800, and the annual increases in tax revenues and annual changes in UI claims are extremely comparable between Q3 and Q4.

    Remember that the statistical errors in Wisconsin's CES job totals are roughly ±10,000; take the difference between two of them (as when assessing quarterly gains) and that becomes about ±14,000.

    For these reasons I doubt that QCEW will show a private sector gain of more than 35,000 for 2013. We'll know in a little over 3 months' time (or about 2 months if you look at DWD pre-releases).

  2. Good analysis. The second largest government jobs expansion in the nation last year? Inconceivable that we would hire 1250+ new government workers every month in 2014.

  3. Bombadil- I'm also thinking the govt jobs number slips a bit in coming months, so it won't be as huge. Some is also a seasonal blip that'll be reversed in February (making that number even weaker).

    Geoff- that would be interesting if the QCEW for Q4 came in lower, as you can bet the Firzwalkerstanis are just praying that one-time increase pays off for Summer propaganda

    1. A seasonally-adjusted gain of +19,500 private sector jobs would be completely unprecedented for Q4 in Wisconsin, the best before this by CES was +11,900 in the initial recovery year of 2010. A Q4 that is 10,200 better than Q4 of 2012 couldn't fail to have a huge impact on year-on-year differences in unemployment claims for December vs September, an impact which is not in evidence.

      +19,500/quarter out of a base of 2.4 million is the kind of rate of growth the fastest-growing non-North Dakota states get. If we were at such levels, it would surely feel more like boom times.

      The pre-released September QCEW figures show a year-on-year gain of 28,619, in accordance with the CES unadjusted 29,300 and the CES adjusted 29,500. So the September CES starting point seems sound and it's the December endpoint that seems squiffily high rather than September being squiffily low - which is bad news for the whole-year result.