Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Surprise Wis jobs release tries to conceal more failure

With a raft of economic and poll data coming out in the coming days and weeks in Wisconsin, I found it very intriguing that Scott Walker's Department of Workforce Development sent this out a day ahead of the monthly jobs report that hits tomorrow.
New quarterly census job count data shows Wisconsin gained almost 40,000 private-sector jobs from March 2014 to March 2015, including almost 6,300 jobs in manufacturing. In addition, quarterly wages by covered private-sector employers grew by 4.5 percent over the same quarter in 2014.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the state's Quarterly Census of Employment & Wages (QCEW) covering the first quarter of 2015. The data is based on actual job reports from over 135,000 Wisconsin employers.
At first glance, that seems pretty good, since the last "gold standard" QCEW report had Wisconsin adding 35,759 in the previous 12-month period, and because the lowest amount of total jobs usually happen in the first three months of the year, it means Wisconsin's rate of growth picked up to its fastest levels over the last 3 years measured.

Without context, these improving job stats would lead to an argument that Wisconsin's economy was finally turning the corner in early 2015. BUUUUT, we know there is context that has to be said, and it makes these QCEW figures look even much less impressive. First of all, the U.S. job market was still growing much faster than Wisconsin was in this time period - with private sector growth peaking at around 2.6%, well above Wisconsin's 1.72%. And this type of lagging also likely means Wisconsin continued to be in the bottom half of job growth in the U.S. when the nationwide QCEW figures get released next month, which will be yet another strike going against the Walker 2016 campaign.

Even more alarming is that the QCEW's tale of job growth is much less than what was being reported in the monthly jobs reports that came out of the DWD back in Spring.

Wisconsin job growth Mar 2014 - Mar 2015
Monthly report private +48,200
QCEW report private +39,652 (-8,548)

Monthly report total +53,300
QCEW report total +39,599 (-13,701)

That's quite a big difference, and likely means that Wisconsin's monthly job totals will be revised down early next year, which would make the already-huge Walker jobs gap even larger. That number stood at well over 96,000 private sector jobs after June's report and the U.S.'s upward revisions, and we find out tomorrow if it got even bigger in July. As you can see in this chart, we'll need another 4,500 private sector jobs added in tomorrow's report just to keep pace.

And the fact that the always-political Walker DWD chose to release the QCEW figures a day before that regular report should give you pause. They usually just include it as part of the regular release, which indicates they wanted the news to talk about this separately from the July jobs report, and get some positive headlines ahead of the Marquette Law Poll that also comes out midday tomorrow. Think these guys might have an idea that both of tomorrow's reports won't reflect very well on the Dear Leader?


  1. Thanks for always being there to promptly de-code these DWD releases.
    Are you aware of any other states (or countries) that have successfully depoliticized the reporting of economic data? Some kind of a model like LAB or GAB but for jobs numbers, etc.? Maybe hand this kind of reporting off to UW? Obviously that won't happen anytime soon, but I'm thinking about it as a little plank for the Dems to run on in 2018. Really sick of all this uncritical boosterism. They trot out that CEO Magazine quote in every single press release as though it's something new (and meaningful). If the numbers aren't good, DWD should be able to tell us that so we can do something about it; and how can we trust or use any actual good news on the state economy if DWD is all sunshine-and-rainbows all the time? There's a place for state govt to be promoting the state, but that shouldn't be part of DWD's mission.

    1. Good question. Not that I don't expect some spin, but the DWD releases are so shameless and dishonest that it underscores how WISGOP does not believe in independent public service, from top to bottom levels of government.

      I just want to know why John Schmidt of the JS decides to uncritically publish this spin as fact

  2. Good question! Here's one example, Texas, which you think would provide releases thanking the GOP for every single job created, instead presents the raw data in detail downloads way, way beyond what Wisconsin provides:
    Texas also releases its monthly jobs data without all the "gold standard" and "estimates" (dutifully repeated by the MJS and WSJ) nonsense that the WI DWD adds. Similarly IL and MN release their data without the partisan language.

  3. Jake,

    The systematic undermining of the accuracy, efficacy, and policy guidance of Wisconsin's employment data collection and reporting system by the grotesquely partisan Walker Administration, and the culpability of Wisconsin's media in this seeming GOP War on Mathematics & Statistics will someday provide wonderful subject matter for a researcher to show how easily governmental technical and scientific systems can be co-opted by political forces.

    One can still go back and view the 2007 Doyle Administration employment information releases on the DWD website. They were simple, short and fairly complete presentations of the monthly and quarterly data back then. The Walker Administration, sensing their economic failures early on, began undermining the monthly reports as "inaccurate", "subject to revision", "incomplete"; although as your graph above clearly indicates, trends lines can clearly show what is going on in the Wisconsin job market. Now the monthly reports are platforms for irrelevant business formation statistics, cut and pastes from business magazines, and other cherry-picked data purporting to show dynamic growth, with the addition of several nonsensical graphs allegedly portraying the inaccuracy of the monthly data. The idea that the Quarterly Data is more accurate because it has more reporting entities is simply laughable from a statistical standpoint and yet, the MJS and WSJ dutifully report Walker's intellectual insights regarding statistical survey accuracy with every release. Then by focusing on a report that is released only 4 times a year, long after the relevant time periods, where the national comparison can only be done by waiting for further data, has permitted Walker to take his iron-clad guarantee of 250,000 (his words, not mine) during his first term and magically shift it to become a glimmering aspiration goal that shows how jobs are his focus. That is sickening enough but to have the news media all shake their heads in agreement makes you realize why there is no significant job growth in Wisconsin outside of Dane, Pierce and St. Croix Counties. The rest of the state sits and waits, like the adherents of a South Pacific cargo cult, hoping to see the ships coming back to restore prosperity.

    1. This is a post from lufthase that I accidentally deleted.

      LUFTHASE: "That's great. It can be called "the Texas model." Tough for GOP to argue with that. And it's just an html table with links to excel spreadsheets consistently reporting the same metrics month after month without the cherrypicking or other political gymnastics. You don't even need to open 20 separate PDFs to look at trends. Wouldn't cost much if anything to implement.

      I was initially thinking of something more novel, like having an agreement where MN releases WI jobs numbers and WI releases MN's (or maybe MD if MN is too rivalry-y). That way, there's no incentive (for either party) for these releases to sound like they came from the Committee to Reelect the Governor. "