Thursday, May 24, 2018

Minnesota passes Wisconsin for jobs. No righties, this isn't working

For some reason, I had missed that the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (aka, the more thorough, “gold standard” job report) started pre-releasing their overall figures a couple of weeks ahead of their main report, beginning with their year-end 2017 totals this week.

Which explains why the following headline from Wisconsin Public Radio snuck up on me, and I didn’t see it until this morning. “Minnesota passes Wisconsin in total jobs, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.”
University of Michigan Labor Economist Donald Grimes said what stuck out to him was that Minnesota had added more jobs than Wisconsin every year since 2010.

"The fact that it's every year is somewhat remarkable," Grimes said.

The numbers show that in 2017, Wisconsin added a total of 28,696 jobs. That translated to a growth rate of about 1 percent, which ranked 27th in the nation.

Minnesota, by contrast, added 35,925 jobs in 2017 for a growth rate of 1.3 percent, which ranked 18th.
What’s sad is that Wisconsin’s 27th place standing in rate of job growth is an improvement over the rankings in the 30s that have been the rule during Scott Walker’s Reign of Error. But it’s not anything to be proud of, not only because it makes for 26 straight quarters of job growth in the bottom half of the US, but also because 2017 continued a trend of lower job growth in Wisconsin that started in early 2016.

The most amazing part about that chart to me is that the fastest rate of job growth was reached in March 2011 – the month that Act 10 was jammed through the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

There isn’t a breakdown into various sectors of jobs, like public sector vs private sector or manufacturing (that’ll come in a couple of weeks), but we can certainly evaluate the change in total jobs between the two states. And Minnesota has lapped Wisconsin in that stat since Walker and Dayton took office.

Total job growth, Dec 2010-Dec 2017
Minn +292,976 (+11.34%)
Wis. +202,554 (+7.59%)

In addition to the gap of more than 90,000 jobs, this stat means that Minnesota has a rate of job growth that’s more than 50% faster than Wisconsin over these 7 years.

The “gold standard” report also showed that Wisconsin didn’t gain as many jobs as the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development claimed it did when it originally reported their December 2017 figures back in January.
Based on preliminary data, Wisconsin added a significant 40,200 total non-farm jobs and 43,500 private sector jobs from December 2016 to December 2017, including a significant 11,500 manufacturing jobs. The state also gained 1,300 private sector jobs from November 2017 to December 2017, including 1,200 construction jobs. November private sector jobs gains were also revised up by 2,100, showing that Wisconsin gained a total of 4,900 private sector jobs from October 2017 to November 2017.
That’s a whole lot more than the nearly 28,700 jobs that the QCEW report is saying for 2017, and it continues a disturbing trend of Scott Walker’s Department of Workforce Development overestimating job and labor force growth in recent years.

The last thing that grabbed my attention was the job growth in the 6 largest Wisconsin counties, which was in this report. Milwaukee County had its best growth in 2017 out of any year in the 2010s (+4,233), but that’s damning with faint praise, as Milwaukee County’s 2017 growth rate of 0.9% was still well below the US rate of 1.5%, and came on the heels of losing nearly 1,500 jobs in 2016.

Over the last 7 years, Milwaukee County added jobs at less than half the rate of the rest of the state, which helps explain the Milwaukee metro’s lack of growth in income in recent years (as I mentioned last week). By comparison, those crazy hippies in Dane County have set the pace with Minnesota-like job growth in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.

Job growth, largest Wis counties, Dec 2010-Dec 2017
Dane County +11.73%
Waukesha Co. +9.75%
Brown County +8.44%
Wisconsin state +7.59%
Outagamie Co. +7.15%
Winnebago Co. +5.10%
Milwaukee Co. +3.73%

By comparison, the 13.54% job growth in Hennepin County, Minnesota (where Minneapolis is located) even outpaces the boom going on in Madison, and the Twin Cities exurb of Washington County is even faster- at 16.41%. As the labor economist notes in WPR’s article, Wisconsin’s largest metro area is underperforming Minnesota’s largest one, and maybe it’s time to learn something from it.
"You need to focus on why Milwaukee is doing so much worse than Minneapolis-St. Paul and how you can be more like Minneapolis-St. Paul," Grimes said.
Might it have something to do with a State Legislature in Minnesota that doesn’t try to handcuff the state’s largest metro area and economic engine, and actually invests in 21st Century transit and quality of life instead of beating up on the Cities in the name of “divide and conquer” politics that stir up the rubes? Naaahh, that’s just crazy talk.

One other suggestion- maybe Wisconsin’s big cities could try to pay the big-league wages that are given to workers in the Twin Cities and the Chicago area.

Average weekly wage, December 2017
Hennepin Co., MN $1,335 (+3.0% vs Dec 2016)
Ramsey Co., (St. Paul) MN $1,202 (+3.8%)

Lake County, IL $1,411 (+1.0%)
Cook County, IL $1,283 (+2.6%)

Waukesha Co. $1,082 (+0.8%)
Dane County, Wis $1,070 (+3.5%)
Milwaukee Co. $1,056 (+1.5%)

Walker and his media flacks may try to spin these numbers away, but there’s no way you can ignore that Minnesota chose a very different path than we did, and we have fallen behind as a result. I’ll repeat a common theme of mine – you would never accept 7 years of the Packers being a 6-10, 7-9 team that always finished behind the Vikings, so why would we accept it in something more important like economic performance?

Not that we shouldn’t have figured it out before, but those numbers give even stronger proof that it’s time for a change in leadership Wisconsin.


  1. Just maybe this explains why Wisconsinites can be bought with a tax-cut equal to a two dollar dog. Our wages are so low any help toward another 12 pack is nirvana.

    1. Well, the Kochs' ultimate endgame is to have us all be indentured servants to a few corporations, so the helplessness and low expectations that you describe is part of that plan.

  2. Minnespta's Gov didn't base his career on trashing his state's two largest cities. I noticed that the metro area population of the Twin Cities is a much higher percentage of the MN population than Milwaukee Metro is for Wisconsin. Roughly 65% to 25%

    Might have something to do with the relative support for those cities.

  3. Capital city regions tend to have performed better in recent years which could help explain some of the poor performance of Milwaukee but the stat this week that personally stood out to me the most was GDP figures released that showed from a year ago, MN and IA were up 9% compared to WI up only 3% although ND was up over 32% which was highest in the nation and SD did around 18%. I was surprised at WI placing low on GDP growth with the big push in manufacturing in the state. There was an article on WPR a while back with Walker saying losses in manufacturing lack of applicants causing the losses and being the unemployment rate has been running lower in WI tells me the state is running out of workers most likely because of lower paying jobs, and not because of lack of opportunies in most areas. It's tough to retain a workforce if multiple surrounding states have higher wages. The loss of tax reciprocity on the MN border might be simply causing people to move all together. MN pays the difference if a resident crosses the border. The biggest problem between the States though in my view is that MN is more affordable for people that aren't rich.IL and WI is a better deal for rich people due to lower income taxes on high incomes. Your workforce is mainly made of low and middle class workers and there are far more of them, so it makes sense the population and workers would be disappearing in WI and even IL and ending up in MN.