Saturday, September 21, 2013

Decent August in Wisconsin, but still behind the curve

This week featured another Wisconsin jobs report, and it was a relatively good one, with 7,300 private sector jobs added, and 6,100 overall. Some of the private sector growth was offset by downward revisions for July by 1,800, meaning July actually had a seasonally-adjusted loss of jobs by 100. But even if you knock off the July loss, 6,000 private sector jobs gained in two months is in line with the seasonally-adjusted increase of 35,000 private sector jobs in Wisconsin for the last 12 months.

If we go inside the numbers for August, there are a couple of standout figures. The first is the increase in Construction jobs, 3,300 on a seasonally-adjusted basis, and 2,000 on a non-seasonally adjusted one. This means that seasonal layoffs in construction aren't happening, and instead we're seeing hiring in late Summer. Now, we'd only gained 1,000 jobs in the Construction sector for the 11 months before August 2013, so it remains to be seen if this is a sign of growth, or just a one-month fluke of timing. But certainly good news if you work in those industries.

On the flip side are the job stats in Manufacturing for Wisconsin. July was revised down by 2,500 jobs on a seasonally-adjusted basis, and 500 more Manufacturing jobs were lost in August, for a total of 3,000 fewer Manufacturing jobs than we thought we had this time last month. Some of this was expected, as Page 2 of this month's U.S. jobs report pointed out "auto manufacturers laid off more workers for model changeover in July than in recent years," and there were big downward revisions in Manufacturing for July nationwide.

But this doesn't explain the slippage we saw in Wisconsin for August, and it doesn't explain why we've seen 6,600 manufacturing jobs go away in Wisconsin over the last 6 months.

And yes, Wisconsin is ahead of the nation's in adding manufacturing jobs since Gov. Walker took office in January 2011. But as I brought up while debunking WMC's lies about Walker's job record, Wisconsin has the 2nd-highest percentage of jobs in manufacturing in the country, so we should be ahead of the national rate when manufacturing jobs are being added.

We've had a nice runup in jobs since the disasters in March and April, but the losses in those two months and the stagnation before that leave us well into the hole compared to the rest of the country. Despite some recent narrowing, the Walker jobs gap is still nearly 40,000 jobs overall, and nearly 50,000 in the private sector.

And keep your eyes peeled on the next two months, as kids go back to school and seasonal jobs end. That caused a lot of the "increases" in May and June, as those kinds of jobs had more hiring than normal, and if those jobs aren't maintained in Fall, we'll see those turn into job "losses" in the next couple of reports.


  1. August results are notable for the fact that, by Politifact's method of counting progress towards Walker's 250,000 private sector jobs promise (i.e. take whole-year changes in QCEW then part-year changes in seasonally-adjusted CES), there are now 160,118 more to get and 16 months to do it in. The asking rate to meet the promise - once a relatively modest 5,200/month - now exceeds 10,000/month for the first time.

    In benchmarked CES, that has only been achieved in one month since 2002, but needs to be done sixteen times in a row now to scrape by.

    On another note, withholding taxes have been flat. They're a noisy series, but taking the 3-month period June-August this year collections are down $156m on the same period last year.

    Most of that is likely the fact that August 2012 ended on a weekend, but August 2013 did not, so some withholding for work done last month won't show up until next month's figures. The adjustment is typically about $150m, suggesting that total wages are roughly flat, maybe even declining in real terms.

    For August 2012 - August 2013, CES shows a net gain of 35,000 private sector jobs, but 19,700 of those are in the Leisure & Hospitality sector, which has historically hosted jobs that pay about 1/3 of the private sector average.

    It's possible that that sector in Wisconsin is growing at 2 1/2 times the US rate, with large contributions from Green Bay and Appleton, but it doesn't seem especially likely given historical trends.

  2. That GB-Appleton chart is remarkable- I encourage others to click on it. That sector is up 15% year-over-year, and way above what it's been in every other year. Either that number is being overestimated (and will be revised down), or there is set to be a whole lot of layoffs in the next few months, which will be shown in the September-October stats.