This is a follow up to the post I made over the weekend discussing the latest bad jobs numbers in Wisconsin. This time, I wanted to take a look at a stat the Badger state has generally looked good in compared to the rest of the nation- the unemployment rate. Unfortunately, this is another stat where we are faring poorly compared to other states during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.
The February jobs report included an increase in the state's unemployment rate to 7.2% from 7.0% in January. It went against the U.S. trend, which had unemployment fall from 7.9% to 7.7%, and we'll see where it stands when the March numbers come out on Friday.
It also goes against the positive trend this state had before Scott Walker and WisGOP came to power in 2011. Wisconsin was able to hold its own compared to its neighbors during the Great Recession, as it never reached 10% unemployment like Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio did. But it did have a bad go of it from June 2008 to June 2009, as our unemployment rate went from 4.5% to 9.2%. During that time, Barack Obama was elected president and Democrats took control of both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature, which meant that they had to deal with the huge budget deficit that resulted from the financial crisis and Great Recession.
The Democrats' budget was signed by Governor Doyle in June 2009, and Wisconsinhad higher unemployment than 30 other states, at 9.2%. The 4.7% increase over the previous 12 months was also the 7th-highest rise in the U.S. That trend needed to stop, and quickly. And for the rest of the time that Doyle and the Dems were in power, it did.
Wisconsin unemployment under Doyle/Dem control
January 2009 7.1%
June 2009 9.2% (31st lowest in U.S., +4.7% last 12 months)
Jan 2010 9.2% (29th lowest, +2.1% last 12 mos.)
June 2010 8.4% (25th lowest, -0.8% last 12 mos., 7th-biggest drop)
Jan 2011 7.7% (18th lowest, -1.5% last 12 mos., 5th-biggest drop)
So Scott Walker and WisGOP entered office with Wisconsin's unemployment falling, and relatively low. And after holding steady compared to the rest of the country for the first year-and-a-half, the state's unemployment stats have turned bad since June's recall election.
Wisconsin unemployment rate under Walker/ WisGOP control
Jan 2011 7.7% (18th lowest, -1.5% last 12 mos.)
June 2011 7.7% (21st lowest, -0.7% last 12 mos.)- Walker signs budget
Jan 2012 7.0% (17th lowest, -0.7% last 12 mos.)
June 2012 7.0% (17th lowest, -0.7% last 12 mos.) Walker wins recall election
Feb 2013 7.2% (23rd lowest, +0.3 last 12 mos., 6th-biggest RISE in U.S)
A chart showing Wisconsin's rank in lowest unemployment rates among states also bears this out.
All these numbers come from the BLS's handy interactive search tool on state unemployment rates, which you can use at your leisure to put numbers together. I highly recommend it when you want to compare state-vs. state.
It's also worth mentioning that any lowering of unemployment in the first 18 months of Walker's term probably has little to do with what's happening in Wisconsin, and instead reflects the improving national economy. This is in stark contrast to what happened under the Doyle-Dem budget, as Wisconsin's increase in unemployment stopped in mid-2009, months ahead of the U.S., and also fell faster than the U.S. rate throughout 2010. That trend has reversed in the last 12 months.
Look at how the gap between the U.S. and Wisconsin's unemployment rates have shrunk in the last 2 years. When Walker and WisGOP took control in January 2011, Wisconsin had an unemployment rate 1.4% lower than the U.S. That gap is barely more than 1/3 that amount today, at 0.5%.
So if you hear right-wing loudmouths still trying to give Scott Walker credit for "holding Wisconsin's unemployment under the national average," the simple response is "He didn't build that." In fact, the Fitzwalkerstan era is erasing Wisconsin's longtime advantage of lower unemployment, and may soon cause the state to reside in the bottom half of U.S states in that statistic. It is yet another failure that you can hang on these guys, and much like with the total jobs figures, there is little reason to believe this bad unemployment trend will start beating the national average anytime soon.