Today's Wisconsin jobs report for April had two big points of news to look at. One showed some good things going on in Wisconsin, and the other...not so much.
1. First, let's talk about April's numbers. 7,600 private sector jobs were added, and 8,000 overall, so a very good number there. March was also revised up by 900 private sector jobs (400 overall), so we are 8,500 private sector jobs above where we thought we were before today. Combined with March's increases, it makes for a couple of decent months since the horrible February numbers (where 13,000 jobs were lost, and 5,300 in the private sector), and we're back to 9,400 private sector jobs gained for the first 4 months of the year. It's a moderate pace, similar to what we've seen in recent years in Wisconsin, but even the strong April figures did little to cut into the Walker jobs gap, since the U.S. also had strong job growth for March and April. As a result, Wisconsin is still more than 54,000 private sector jobs below the U.S. rate since Walker took office in 2011.
2. Also included in the Wisconsin jobs report was the preliminary figures for the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages for the last 3 months of 2013. And those numbers came in lower than the monthly reports were indicating, as barely more than 28,000 private sector jobs were added in the QCEW, compared to 39,700 that was reported through the monthly numbers. Not only does this put the lie to the Walker Administration's claims of "fastest 2-year job growth in more than a decade," (itself a function of timing more than sustained job growth) but it makes for the LOWEST amount of private sector job growth since 2009, which included the depths of the Great Recession. This includes the final year of Jim Doyle's tenure in 2010, which was the only full year Wisconsin was under the budget passed by the Democratically-controlled legislature.
QCEW private sector job growth, Wisconsin
2010 33,658 (+1.50%)
2011 29,800 (+1.31%)
2012 33,872 (+1.47%)
2013 28,006 (+1.20%)
And even with the stronger showing in Wisconsin over the last 2 months, 2014 is currently on a pace to gain....28,200 jobs, so no improvement at all. Even the argument of "having unemployment of only 5.8% shows its working" falls flat, because the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in April, making Wisconsin only 0.5% better than the U.S. And as UW Professor Menzie Chinn has noted, being 0.5% below the U.S. rate means Wisconsin is underperforming its average "advantage" of 0.9%.
Still, the decent numbers in April show that the cold, dreary weather didn't hold back job growth like it did last year, when 7,300 jobs were lost. It also makes the May job figures extremely important in seeing if these last two months are the start of a real Wisconsin boom (and a boom to Walker's re-election chances), or merely a short-term blip like many other months we've seen in the last 3 years, and we'll go back to the stagnation we've seen in many other months during the age of Fitzwalkerstan.