Thursday, July 16, 2015

Jobs stay subpar in Wisconsin

It was well-hidden between the John Doe news and the Bucks arena, but there was yet another disappointing Wisconsin job report that leaked out late this afternoon. 300 more private sector jobs went away, which includes 2,300 seasonally-adjusted jobs lost in Construction, 2,000 lost in Leisure and Hospitality, and 300 in Manufacturing (all of which reflect lower-than-normal seasonal hiring). Higher-than-average seasonal hiring by local governments meant that total jobs were up by a seasonally-adjusted 1,900, and those mediocre results were somewhat alleviated by May's figures being revised up by 2,600 private sector jobs and 2,800 overall, but that still means that May had 5,800 total jobs lost, and the weak results in June means that the Walker jobs gap has grown yet again, now up past 96,600 private sector jobs, and over 90,000 overall.

The household survey also featured a ongoing trend of recent months- bad employment numbers masked by a lower work force. This time, it says that 12,600 fewer Wisconsinites were listed as "employed" in June, but the unemployment rate held at 4.6% because 11,000 people dropped out of the workforce! This now means that over 40,000 Wisconsinites have allegedly dropped out of the work force in just 5 months, the participation rate has dr4opped by 1% in those give months, and while some of this may be reversion to the statistical mean (it rose quite a bit in 2014), the state's workforce numbers are now no different than they were at the start of 2013.

Take a look at what the state's unemployment rate would have done since January if the state's work force numbers had remained the same, instead of having these 40,000 dropouts reported.

That's right, our unemployment rate would be 5.9% instead of 4.6% if our labor force had remained the same as we had in January. I really want to see why this is. People leaving? Retiring and not being replaced? Statistical blip and the labor force will go up in future months, along with the unemployment rate?

Either way, both the jobs and unemployment figures are not going in the right direction, and many of us should keep these figures at the ready if Scott Walker wants to talk up his "economic success" to the rubes out of state on the campaign trail. Because while Scotty may lie, the numbers do not.


  1. Jake, is there a particular month (June/July?) where the "civilian labor force" number usually ticks upward to reflect a new cohort of HS and college grads entering the workforce? Should we be expecting that soon? Or does it somehow get evened out with the seasonal adjusting?
    It would be interesting to see a graph of just the labor force numbers over several years. I imagine you've got that handy in a spreadsheet already :)

    1. It gets smoothed out by seasonal adjustment. For example, the report says 40,000 entered the workforce on a non-seasonal basis, but that's well below what it should be for Summer, hence the drop.

      If that holds, it would raise the seasonally-adjusted labor force in.future months, and likely raise the unemployment rate. Let's see if it does.

      For past trends, go to and search "Wisconsin economy at a glance."

  2. Menzie Chinn points out that the last time the household and establishment surveys both showed negative 3-month trends was during the Great Recession.

  3. Off topic but share worthy

    Please tell me Walker and his cronies didn't know.