Tuesday, April 9, 2013

MacIver not really getting that seasonal job thing

The fittingly-named MacIver news service (because they can maneuver any stat or piece of information into right-wing propaganda) clearly got the word that Wisconsin's bad jobs numbers are hurting Scott Walker's election prospects. So they decided to send out a pile of crap to the dupes who take them seriously titled "Gov. Scott Walker more than halfway to 250,000 job goal."

Well that's quite a change from what we've been covering here for the last 2 years. And the reason it's different is BECAUSE IT'S A LIE BY OMISSION.

MacIver is using the numbers from the most recent Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which says that total jobs in Wisconsin were 2,205,584 in January 2011 (when Walker took office) and was 2,342,956 in September 2012, a difference of 137,372. Of course, there's always more jobs in September than there are in January in Wisconsin, because of weather-related jobs such as construction, landscaping and tourist-related industries. Using the raw numbers without keeping seasonality in complex is the mark of a stupid analyst, or a pathetic liar. It's the same BS that Gov. Walker tried to pull a few months back, and the Journal-Sentinel's Politifact called him a pants-on-fire liar for doing so.

And when you compare those figures with previous years, they don't show success for Scott Walker's policies. They show we often did as well if not better under Jim Doyle when the economy was growing nationwide (as it was from 2003-2007 under Doyle), and the job growth for the 21-month period MacIver is trying to prop Walker up on is a 13.4% DROP FROM THE YEAR BEFORE.

21 month job changes, Wisconsin (QCEW)
Jan 2011-Sept. 2012 +137,372 (+6.23%)
Jan 2010- Sept. 2011 +155,820 (+7.19%)
Jan 2005- Sept. 2006 +139,747 (+6.12%)
Jan 2004- Sept. 2005 +154,895 (+6.88%)
Jan. 2003- Sept. 2004 +128,287 (+5.71%)

So these numbers aren't really anything special, and in fact show a slowing from the previous year. But that doesn't come close with illustrating the amount of fail that's already happened in FitzWalkerstan, with more bad months in the QCEW to come.

If you take a look at Wisconsin's last 10 years or so, you'll see where this cycle of adding and subtracting seasonal jobs happens. Even including the recession year of 2009, when we were losing 150,000 jobs on a year-over-year basis, we added jobs in the Summer.

What's so dishonest about the MacIver story is they take the number that bottoms out at the start of 2011, but doesn't take into account that the number will drop again in the last 3 months of 2012, and is on track to fall again in the first 3 months of 2013. They're not going to be coming back in 6 months saying "Oh my God! We've lost 80,000 jobs in the last 6 months, and we're 200,000 jobs away from Walker meeting his goal!" But saying after the March report "80,000 jobs lost in last 6 months" would be just as true as their "It's Working" propaganda piece that they sent out today...and just as dishonest. Which is why the BLS uses year-over-year numbers when it's measuring the states against each other, and in looking for trends.

And that trend is not in Scott Walker's favor over the last year when it comes to private sector job growth-with barely half the jobs being added in the last report compared to what the state was doing when he took over.

In fact, I'd anticipate the upcoming year-over-year QCEW reports to show a performance as bad as the meager increase of less than 21,000 private sector jobs from Sept. 2011-Sept. 2012 - if not worse. The recently-benchmarked 2012 numbers released done by the BLS and released by the DWD used QCEW data to match up the data with the other surveys used. It showed that October-December 2012 jobs numbers barely nudged up on a seasonally-adjusted basis, while the U.S. as a whole was adding over 200,000 jobs a month in that time period.

Then look at the March 2012 increase in the QCEW, and see that 19,000 more people were working in that month than they were in February, which is the largest March increase in any of the 12 years the QCEW has measured. And it's no surprise why, because March 2012 featured numerous days in the 70s and 80s, accelerating the seasonal hiring that would usually happen in April, as Wisconsinites had green grass and bloomed trees this time last year. By comparison, the last 2 months of 2013 have had temperatures below normal (it hasn't broken 65 once, and we're supposed to get MORE SNOW on Thursday of this week after 2 days of downpours), and there's no outside lawn or landscaping work to be had. So replace the above-normal hiring in March 2012 with what will probably be low hiring in March 2013, and that means another bad 12 months on the list in the QCEW report that'll be out this September.

So don't be tricked by Walker supporters trying to MacIver their way into convincing you that Scotty's going to fulfill his prediction of 250,000 private sector jobs. He's nowhere close to it today, and won't be hitting it anytime in 2014, even with the huge seasonal increases in jobs that we get every Summer in Wisconsin.


  1. There's a bit of subtlety here in MacIver's ramblings that needs exploring.

    In the recall election, Walker touted his preliminary December 2010 - December 2011 QCEW numbers, the January 2011 ones not being available for another 3 months.

    By Walker's accelerated preliminary QCEW release schedule, the last set of data that will be available before the November 4th, 2014 election will be for the quarter up to March 2014 (June 2012 data was pre-released on November 15th, 2012).

    Without seasonal adjustment, March numbers are invariably a lot worse then the preceding December's, but slightly better than the preceding January's if we're not in the middle of a recession.

    MacIver are attempting to set a precedent that would allow Walker to claim a seasonal rise of 15,000 as his own doing.

    What he would no doubt like most of all though is to pre-release the June 2014 data on an even more highly accelerated schedule and claim a normal seasonal rise of *120,000* as his own, exactly as he tried last December (which even PF couldn't help but give a Pants-on-Fire rating to http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2012/dec/16/scott-walker/gov-scott-walker-says-wisconsin-has-created-almost/).

  2. Geoff- But don't be surprised to see the Walker folks try to pull something where they say near the election "we have numbers that show our jobs figures have been picking up," probably based on non-seasonal numbers for June-July 2014.

    I can only hope our media is tired of being clowned and lied to at that point. These are not "debatable" items when you deal with jobs numbers. Math is math.

    1. I am at least somewhat encouraged on that front that PF went as far as the Pants-on-Fire smackdown and have been doing a well-grounded job on the progress of the 250,000 jobs promise. Walker's attempt to recast the promise as having only ever been an aspirational goal seems to have fallen short.

      Unfortunately with the way things are and are headed, "we have numbers that show our jobs figures have been picking up" will likely just sound desperate.