Sunday, July 12, 2015

Politi-"fact" subs opinion for reality on Wis economy. Fails miserably

Looks like our friends at Wisconsin Politi-"fact" are back at it again, parsing language from left-wing organizations to try to make Scott Walker's record in Wisconsin not seem so awful (or at least to give an excuse for the right-wing bubble-worlders to blow it off). This time it's from a note from the pro-Dem organization American Bridge which says
Wisconsin’s economy has "tanked" under Gov. Scott Walker and "so far in 2015 over 6,685 people have been laid off, already more than in all of 2014."
The claim was generated from this observation made by WKOW Channel 27 in Madison a couple of weeks ago.
At the halfway point of 2015, Wisconsin employers have already notified the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) of more planned layoffs than in all of 2014.

As of June 30, state employers have notified DWD they will be laying off a total of 6,685 employees. That is higher than the total number for both 2012 (6,511) and 2014 (6,186).

At the current pace Wisconsin would see more than 13,000 planned layoffs announced in 2015, the highest of any year under Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin). The previous high during the Walker administration was just over 9,000 in 2011, his first year in office.
In fact, the WARN notices tell us that there are 3 mass layoffs totaling nearly 2,500 jobs coming in the next month that might put in a serious crimp into the state's economy.

Golden Country Foods in Plover- 432 layoffs
Wells Fargo in Milwaukee- 839 layoffs
Assurant Health in Milwaukee- 1,200 layoffs

So what does Politi-"fact" do to evaluate the American Bridge Claim with mass layoffs in Wisconsin? They concede the point about there being more mass layoffs in Wisconsin in 2015 than all of 2014, and then proceed TO IGNORE THAT DATA ENTIRELY!
But the warning notices are a lousy tool to assess the economy -- and especially employment.

Why? Some layoffs never trigger a notice, because they don’t reach the 50 person threshold. Also, the notices don’t always mean lost jobs. In cases when a company changes hands, the old firm is required to file a notice, even if all the workers will retain their jobs with the new firm.
This is a classic case of Politi-"fact" moving the goalposts to suit what they want to evaluate. They've done this trick many times in the past, especially when it's a claim that the pro-Walker and pro-MMAC Journal-Sentinel doesn't want to hear.

And then Politi-crap excludes even more data when it doesn't suit the result they want to see.
Based on the most solid numbers available, through the first four months of 2015, state private sector employers added 13,300 jobs. That compares with 10,600 jobs in the same time frame in 2014. (Numbers for May are preliminary).
That's an interesting month to throw out, given that Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state in America in May, 8,600 in all and 6,100 in the private sector. If you include May, the jobs figures in Wisconsin look like this.

Change in private sector jobs, Dec-May
2014 +13,900
2015 +7,200

Verry convenient for Politi-crap to blow off May 2015's numbers as "preliminary". In the next breath this analysis then props up claims from local Milwaukee business honks at Manpower and the Mgiving reports from local business execs that say they expect the overall economy to be on an upswing...with the alleged data in those reports coming from May and June. So OPINION from self-interested business execs trumps the actual NUMBERS in Politi-"fact"'s world. #headdesk.

This leads to their final "analysis."
But the [WARN] notices do not represent bodies out the door and, though higher than last year, they are not a reliable economic indicator. Indeed, other reports say that employers overall added about 13,000 jobs in the first five months of the year, a pace higher than a year ago.

We rate the claim False.
You've gotta be shitting me with that take. The claim by American Bridge is regarding the added WARN notices, and Politi-"fact" instead tries to analyze the opinion about the overall economy, and ignores the data from the WARN notices. At the very least, that earns a "half-true" for being correct about the WARN notices (it definitely would have been if a GOP said it), and it shows that despite some good work from the JS in standing up against the shredding of open records and in (finally doing) some recent stories investigating WEDC loans and grants, it is still a corporate paper that has a vested interest in Scott Walker's viability as a national political figure.

And that means we have to watch over them and be prepared to call them out with every step that right-wing rag takes.


  1. The handling of this article is actually even worse than you let on here. (I sent you a message on dailykos about this.)

    The sentence about jobs numbers originally read:

    "Based on preliminary figures, the state added an estimated 13,000 private-sector jobs in the first five months of the year, the most recent time frame for which the data is available. That compares with 10,200 jobs in the same time frame as last year."

    I wrote in to Borowski pointing out that the DWD numbers through May show +7,200 private sector jobs. He acknowledged the error, but rather than simply correcting the number, he rewrote the sentence, shortened his time-horizon, and changed his mind about using preliminary/estimated vs final numbers to keep the 13k number.

    I didn't notice at first, but now the last paragraph still says "13,000 jobs in the first five months," which is just demonstrably false regardless of his verbal gymnastics earlier in the article.

  2. Hadn't seen your note, but I sent a similar message with this article to "author" James B. Nelson. We'll see if they have the guts to admit their mistakes and faulty analysis. Not betting on it, though.

  3. Taking the preliminary and revised seasonally adjusted private sector jobs numbers for May from the last few years of DWD news releases:

    2014: 2,441,600 (P) 2,441,100 (R); revision -500
    2013: 2,387,100 (P) 2,387,000 (R); revision -100
    2012: 2,326,800 (P) 2,328,000 (R); revision +1,200
    2011: 2,343,600 (P) 2,343,600 (R); revision 0.
    2010: 2,296,700 (P) 2,296,800 (R); revision +100

    Here, for completeness, are the three years prior, but they are definitely not directly comparable because before 2010 only the not-seasonally-adjusted numbers were reported:

    2009: 2,331,800 (P) 2,334,700 (R); revision +2,900
    2008: 2,458,200 (P) 2,463,000 (R); revision +4,800
    2007: 2,449,100 (P) 2,460,800 (R); revision +10,700

    So of the 5 years that we have seasonally-adjusted preliminary and revised May, the mean revision was +140 and the standard deviation 635. There is no reason to believe that the preliminary May figures will not prove to be very close to the revised ones.

    (Nelson I've also noticed doesn't seem to understand that the BLS does revise QCEW figures after their initial release, despite previously having told me by email that he does).

  4. Quite a big upward revision on the May numbers out today

    Still nothing to brag about and basically even with 2014 YTD:
    Jan-Apr 2014: +10,600
    Jan-Apr 2015: +13,300

    Jan-May 2014: +9,700
    Jan-May 2015: +9,800

    Not holding my breath for the Politfact article to be updated.