Thursday, July 21, 2011

Are Walker's job numbers BS? Depends on who you ask

I knew there would be some kind of suspicious jobs release from the Department of Workforce Development when I saw Walker sending a media alert for some kind of news conference to discuss the jobs report. And sure enough, that was the case with 9,500 jobs added, but also an increase in unemployment by 0.2% to 7.6%. My immediate response (and the response of many with IQs over 80) was "BULLSHIT!" Remember, Walker's first DWD Secretary left under extremely fishy circumstances and was replaced by a guy whose previous jobs included clerking for Charles' Sykes' ex-wife and working for a law firm giving advice on getting around employment law. So let's see if these sketchy folks are conveniently fixing the last statewide employment report before the recalls.

My immediate hypothesis was that the guys at the DWD were messing with the seasonal adjustment from year-to-year, but a comparison of today's report and last year's doesn't show that. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin gets a huge increase in jobs in June regardless of the economy, just because tourism and construction season gets going, and kids get out of school for the Summer. The seasonal adjustment should take a lot of that increase out, and indeed it does. In 2010, there were 23,500 more jobs than in May, while that increase was 38,300 for this year (an increase of 14,800). Given that the seasonally adjusted totals were -8,200 in 2010 (largely due to the end of Census work) and +9,500 in 2011, this works.

But then look at where the increases are by category, and you get the real story:

Professional services- +4,900 2011 vs. 2010. But 3,100 are in "Admin. Support and Waste Management"- i.e. secretaries and janitors.

Leisure and Hospitality- +8,600 2011 vs. 2010- this category includes "Arts, Entertainment and Rec." and "Accomodation and Food Services." In other words, restaurants, hotels, lifeguards, and Summerfest. In addition to being an iffy number to begin with (you think tourism spots hired up a lot more this year with $3.75 gas?), these jobs are all gone in 2 months.

Other Services- +2,400 (no idea what this is- escorts?)

Government- +1,200- Even this is misleading because 2010 had a lot of lost Census jobs at the time (3,500). Among state and local governments, Scotty and co. dropped 13,700 jobs from May to June. Some of that is seasonality, but a lot of that is a result of the massive numbers of retirements of those employees, spurred on by Walker's union-bashing.

Add up those 4 categories, and you have a 17,100 employee increase in jobs over 2010. All the other types of jobs? 2011 LOSES 2,300 jobs vs. 2010, including 1,300 in education and health services (and the main layoffs have yet to be posted in these categories). And you know construction won't stay at +900 when the housing markets in Milwaukee and Madison continue to fall, staying around their multi-year lows.

So we;ve established that this "great job increase" is concentrated in low-wage, seasonal jobs with no sustainability. But did even THAT happen. The household survey in June 2011 showed that nearly HALF of the more than 50,000 people entering the work force last month ended up unemployed, and the seasonal adjustment there showed a LOSS OF 12,500 JOBS. So this explains the "increases 0.2% to 7.6%" part of the equation. So why the difference? Guess it literally depends on who you ask. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics' own site mentions:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has two monthly surveys that measure employment levels and trends: the Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey, and the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, also known as the payroll or establishment survey.

You can check out the complete explanation of how this works if you want to get your geek on, but the bottom line is that business owners said things were better, and actual people said things were worse. Now, which of those two might have more incentive to lie and manipulate what they do, especially this close to a recall election? Especially when it would mean the entire rest of the country had total job increases of 8,500.

So I don't have explicit proof, like I did with the Kaukauna lie. But I do have a good instinct in thinking we might see some nice "corrections" on the Wisconsin job front in the next few months, and it's not just because the full effect of the exodus of teachers and other public employees hits in full force between now and September. It's also because Wisconsin saw its new jobless claims increase by nearly 1,500 this week after going up another 1,600 the week before.

The more I look at this report, the more I think it'll add up to another Walker deception, because the alleged "job boom" sure doesn't seem to match reality. Stay tuned on this one.


  1. Good post. All jobs are good jobs, but the way Walker is hyping this up is as if he needed some "good" news. The fake Kaukauna thing can only last so long.

  2. Jake, nicely done. Thanks for adding some depth and context to the numbers, which certainly seem to be "cooked" to me.