Thursday, May 18, 2017

Great April jobs report for Wisconsin...if it's real

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development came out with its monthly jobs report relatively early in the day, which means the numbers were likely to be good. And they were.
Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.2 percent in April 2017, down a significant 0.2 percent from March and at its lowest rate since February 2000. The rate remains lower than the national unemployment rate, which was 4.4 percent in April 2017. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate increased 0.2 percentage points to 68.6 percent and continues to outpace the U.S. rate which decreased to 62.9 percent in April. Both total labor force and employment in Wisconsin remained at all-time high in April, while the number of unemployed individuals was its lowest point since April 2000.

·Place of work data: Based on preliminary data, the state added a significant 37,600 total non-farm jobs and a significant 29,300 private-sector jobs from April 2016 to April 2017. Wisconsin also added 7,500 private sector jobs and a significant 14,800 total non-farm jobs from March 2017 to April 2017. Other significant month-over-month gains include 5,100 jobs in Manufacturing.
Very strong all around, and the drop in unemployment featured good gains in both “employment” and the “labor force”. So according to these numbers, Wisconsin is booming, growing, and near full employment, and I’m sure you’ll hear more of Governor Walker and the WisGOPs running around saying “3.2% unemployment” for the next month.

(Side note, if this 3.2% unemployment and high participation rate is accurate, then why are Scott Walker and other Republicans still using the ugly "hammock" language that implies there are large amounts of lazy black people that don't want to work?)

However, there are a few items in that report that don’t exactly add up to me. In particular, I did some comparing with what Walker’s DWD was saying about Wisconsin’s 2016 job market at this point, and noted that the “great gains” that they were touting 12 months ago didn’t turn out so great once we got more information.

Jan 2016- Apr 2016 Wisconsin jobs change
All jobs
Original DWD estimate +19,500
Benchmark re-estimate +16,100

Private jobs
Original DWD estimate +19,500
Benchmark re-estimate +14,900

There’s also an odd seasonal adjustment for April 2017 compared to what was reported at this time last year. The difference in raw (non-seasonally adjusted) jobs between the 2 years became much higher when it was seasonally adjusted, and I find that…interesting.

Raw vs seasonal change in jobs, Apr 2016 vs Apr 2017
All jobs
Apr 2016 raw +21,800
Apr 2016 seasonally-adj. -12,600

Apr 2017 raw +39,600 (+17,800)
Apr 2017 seasonally-adj +14,800 (+27,400)

Private sector
Apr 2016 raw +19,400
Apr 2016 seasonally-adj. -11,500

Apr 2017 raw +31,000 (+11,600)
Apr 2017 seasonally-adj +7,500 (+19,000)

Apr 2016 raw -2,900
Apr 2016 seasonally-adj. -4,200

Apr 2017 raw +4,700 (+7,600)
Apr 2017 seasonally-adj +5,100 (+9,300)

I’m not saying the reports are BS. I just see some weird numbers and reserve the right to be skeptical that they’ll hold up under further examination.

Another reason I am skeptical is that unlike the April 2016 jobs report, the April 2017 report doesn’t include the preliminary figures from the “gold standard” Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW). This next report will be released nationwide in 3 weeks, and the Walker DWD has traditionally pre-released those numbers with the previous jobs report.

This latest QCEW would cover all of 2016, which would give us 6 full years of data during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. The benchmarked monthly numbers of 2016 suck enough- private sector growth of a measly +17,200 (the worst in 7 years), and overall job growth of less than 1% (26,400). If the QCEW figures are equally bad, it would not only counteract all the happy talk in this jobs report, but it would also cement Wisconsin’s status in the bottom of half of US states for job growth for the 22nd straight quarter.

Add in today’s report from the Kaufmann Foundation saying Wisconsin is again dead last for entrepreneurship, and no wonder why the Walker Administration is doing whatever they can to convince Wisconsinites that things are finally turning around economically in 2017. They know they can’t run on their failed record, so they have to pull the Mary Sunshine “future is bright” routine to try to trick people into believing it’s working.

On a related note, the long form of “con” is “confidence game.” Let’s see if the Walker DWD’s claim of 3.2% unemployment and a booming job market claim holds up. Maybe things really are that good statewide, but I find these numbers quite convenient and a fortunate deflection for the WisGOPs.


  1. One thing that seems odd is that MN reported a gain of +15,100 new jobs(the best increase since 2013 for MN) for April and the unemployment rate stayed at 3.8 unchanged from last month while the Wisconsin April estimate was an increase of +7500 jobs and participation rate even increased and the unemployment rate dropped .2%, so it's interesting how the stats seem to imply very different things for both states with similar population numbers.

    1. Different surveys between payrolls (from employers reporting number of jobs in that state) and the unemployment % rate (done as a household survey of residents). Wisconsin in particular is showing 2 different results between those surveys, which either means lots of Wisconsinites work in other states (esp Minn and Ill) or one of these figures are way off.