Monday, August 25, 2014

Walker tries to pick more jobs cherries

Apparently Governor Walker is going to try blow smoke up the Wisconsin voters' backsides and tell them things aren't so bad ahead of the November elections. How else can you explain his latest ad propping up that the state is “3rd in the Midwest” for jobs added since July 2013? It's lame enough that the governor is trying to prop up mediocrity to counteract the Burke campaign's hammering on the jobs issue, ("We're middle of the pack!" doesn't really say "Give me another term."), but it also is yet another example of the Governor cherry-picking stats to hide the failures of his tenure in office.

Now on the surface, the numbers Walker is propping are correct. Even though we lag the national rate of growth, last week's state-by-state jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists Wisconsin above all but 2 Midwestern states for private sector job growth.

Private sector job growth, July 2013-July 2014
Ind. +2.65%
U.S. +2.16%
Mich +1.66%
Wis. +1.50%
Minn +1.30%
Iowa +1.19%
Ohio +0.66%
Ill. +0.60%

And even though we already know those jobs figures are inflated by more than 11,000 based on the final QCEW figures for 2013, and we'd drop to 5th place if we deflated those numbers accordingly, let's allow Scotty his moment at this time.

What Walker's leaving out is the 2 ½ years before July 2013, which were awful. Even if you use the inflated monthly numbers, Wisconsin is 6th out of 7 in the Midwest for private sector jobs gained since Walker took office in January 2011 (both in percentage and in total increased jobs). And the updated Walker jobs gap shows we’re more than 67,000 behind what we’d have if we just kept up with the rest of the nation.

It must also be mentioned that job growth for the 7 months of 2014 has Wisconsin on pace to have its worst job growth of any of Walker’s 4 years. The monthly surveys show that we’ve gained a total of 11,000 private sector jobs and 10,900 overall in 2014. This is barely more than 1,500 a month, and a pace of less than 19,000 for the year. That would be a significant drop from the growth that the QCEW reported for 2011, 2012, and 2013,

QCEW private sector job growth, Wisconsin
2011 +29,800
2012 +33,872
2013 +28,141
2014 pace through July- +18,857
Projected total +110,670

This means we wouldn't even go halfway to Walker’s “floor” of 250,000 jobs. It’s only because so many Midwestern states were set back by the polar vortex winter that 2014's subpar number can look OK compared to other places.

Even before this lame “comeback” ad came out, Jud Lounsbury at Uppity Wisconsin noted that Walker’s Department of Workforce Development refused to release the preliminary numbers for the QCEW for Q1 2014.
To try to mitigate the early-release of QCEW as being labeled as purely political, the WDWD developed an official policy that they would begin releasing QCEW data on their own, approximately one month before the BLS. So, for example, the first quarter of 2012 and 2013 were both released on the third Thursday in August.

Given this past release date pattern, I was eagerly awaiting the first quarter of 2014 to be released last Thursday-- the third Thursday in August. When no data was released, I wrote to WDWD communications director John Dipko to ask when the the QCEW for the first quarter would be released. He responded that Wisconsin's first quarter QCEW would be released by the BLS on September 18, 2014.
So they're hiding the numbers, and I have little doubt it’s because those numbers would show another bad stretch of mediocre jobs figures. They would likely be similar to the 28,000 number that we saw at the end of 2013, which placed Wisconsin 37th in the nation for job growth, and with job growth starting to pick up nationwide in early 2014, it may be similarly poor. It almost makes me wonder if Mr. Lounsbury or someone else should send an open records request to the DWD to see if there was a Club for Growth-style bit of “message coordination” going on there.

But that’s OK, those numbers will be out nationwide in just over 3 weeks, and we’ll have plenty of time to jump all over these guys when that happens. In the meantime, it's important to call out the cynicism that the Walker Administration is trying with this "comeback" meme, because the only thing this state would be coming back from is the mess Walker's own divisive policies put us in. I prefer governors who don't screw up in the first place. Crazy, I know.

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