Thursday, March 9, 2017

New Wis job figures show manufacturing, overall growth in decline

As mentioned earlier, today featured the release of January's Wisconsin jobs report. The January report is always key because the previous year is benchmarked to the "gold standard" Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages.

And as I predicted, Wisconsin had its private sector jobs numbers revised down, albeit not as much as I thought it might, based on Tuesday release of the QCEW through September 2016. And total jobs actually ended up higher.

Revisions to 2016 jobs, Wisconsin
Private sector jobs -4,000
Government jobs +5,500
Total jobs +1,500

What's more noteworthy is that there was a significant change in various sectors of employment within these revisions. And as the QCEW foretold, manufacturing and construction were two of the areas that had the biggest changes to the downside.

Revisions to 2016 jobs, Wisconsin
Manufacturing -5,600
Construction -3,900
Transportation/Warehousing/Utilities -5,800

On the flip side, a few areas did better than what was originally reported, including a certain sector that's been in the news a lot this week - health care.

Revisions to 2016 jobs, Wisconsin
Educational and Health Services +8,500
Professional and Business Services +3,100
Trade/Retail +1,900

Also odd is that the new January figures were a mixed bag in reverse- decent private sector job growth (+5,800) but government employment dropped on a seqsonally adjusted basis by 5,600 jobs (all at the state and local level, which may be related to the MLK Holiday being right after the survey week). But again, manufacturing suffered, with 600 more jobs lost on a seasonally-adjusted basis in January, and 1,700 on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. I guess that's why Gov Walker said yesterday that growing manufacturing wages were now important than growing manufacturing jobs. Cagey move there, Guv!

The other side of the report dealt with the unemployment rate, which Walker's DWD crowed about, as the January rate fell to 3.9%. They shouldn't speak so loudly, as it draws attention to the real reason the number is so low- people are leaving the state and the workforce in big numbers.

Revisions to 2016 figures, Wisconsin
Employed -19,800
Labor Force -18,000
Unemployed +1,800
Unemployment rate up from 4.0% to 4.1%

January 2017
Employed +10,300
Labor Force +5,100
Unemployed -5,200
Unemployment rate down to 3.9% from 4.1%

Even those good January numbers come with caution, as they reflect lower than normal seasonal unemployment in the work force (-19,600), and that could be reversed when Spring re-appears.

Lastly, the Walker DWD tries to convince people in its report that this is a good stat.
According to seasonally-adjusted data, Wisconsin added an estimated 13,600 private sector jobs and 16,100 total nonfarm jobs from January 2016 to January 2017, marking the highest number of total jobs ever when compared to monthly updated estimates.
1. HOOP-DE-DAMN-DO! Wisconsin's population is also at an all-time high, and the number of people working in the US is also at an all-time high. That "most people working" stat tells me nothing.

2. That 12-month gain of 13,600 private sector jobs and 16,100 total jobs? It's the worst total jobs figure for 12 months since April 2013, and the worst 12-month private sector jobs gain since Walker and WisGOP came to power in 2010. Combine that with a stagnating labor force, and does it sound like this state is going in the right direction to you?

We'll find out how these revisions shape up vs other states in he coming days, but it sure looks like Wisconsin regressed in 2016 when it came to job growth. And if you believe we're at full employment, with no spark to attract new people to the state, then what makes you think 2017 is going to be any better?


  1. I'm interested in the point that "Wisconsin's population is at an all-time high." On campus, we hear, or at least assume, the opposite because of "demographic" discussions that point to fewer and fewer high school graduates, thus a dim future for higher ed. Is the all-time high seeing a spike in specific age groups?

  2. Here is what the Wisconsin DOA has for changes through 2040. basically, a lot more old people, fewer middle-agers, and young people slightly higher. Good luck growing if that mix doesn't change

    1. It will be interesting to see how the immigration crackdown coming out of DC impacts us here.

      Agriculture is heavily dependent on immigrant labor. I used to hope that might be a lever to bring the Rs to the table on immigration reform, but that doesn't seem to be likely any more.

    2. You'd think they'd make the connection Jeff. But these people never step up, and let the racists and fundies run the GOP because....power is more important than good business?

      Related point, Hispanics have done the best in the economy in the last 2 months, with 240,000 more Hispanics listed as employed.