Friday, October 17, 2014

Your pre-debate primer on Wisconsin jobs stats

You can bet tonight's final debate in the Wisconsin governor's race will feature plenty of talk about the state's jobs stats, given that Scott Walker made job growth his central theme in 2010. And with yesterday's release of the final Wisconsin jobs report before the Nov. 4 election, we now have the complete data set of how Wisconsin has fared for jobs in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. And you can bet Walker will mention the numbers in this September report, because if you look at it in isolation, the numbers are pretty good.
Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.5 percent in September, down from a revised 5.7 percent in August and from 6.6 percent in September 2013. The 5.5percent rate is the lowest since October 2008 and remains lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.9 percent.

Place of work data: A month-over-month increase in private-sector jobs by a statistically significant, 8,400 from August to September on a preliminary basis (seasonally adjusted). The year-over-year increase in private-sector jobs was also statistically significant, at 37,400 since September 2013. The year-over-year gain in private-sector jobs included the addition of 10,000 manufacturing jobs.
Wow, sounds like things are booming in Wisconsin, right? Meh, not so much when you look inside the numbers. First of all, the job gains in September are more of a reflection of lower layoffs than actual job growth, as Summer jobs ended and students went back to school.

Private sector job change, September 2014, Wisconsin
Seasonally-adjusted +8,400
Non-seasonally adjusted -24,900

It should be no surprise that job growth would look "strong" with lower-than-normal layoffs, because it's coming at a time when the country's new unemployment claims are at a 14-year low. In addition, the seasonally-adjusted gains were heavily concentrated, and not spread around numerous sectors of the state's economy.

Top three private sector job growth sectors, Wisconsin, 9/2014
Educational/health services- +5,800
Leisure/ Hospitality +1,100
Professional/Business Services +1,000

The drop in the unemployment rate is nice, from a (upwardly revised) 5.7% to 5.5%, but is no different than the U.S. drop from 6.1% to 5.9%, which also is the lowest since 2008. And as mentioned before, Wisconsin having an unemployment rate below the U.S. rate isn't any real accomplishment for Walker, as much of the heavy lifting had been done in Jim Doyle's final year in office, and the advantage we had over the rest of the nation was more than 3 times larger when Walker took office than it is today.

Unemployment rate, Wisconsin vs. U.S.
Jan 2010 Wis 9.2%, U.S. 9.7% (Wis rate -0.5%)
Jan 2011 Wis 7.7%, U.S. 9.1%(Wis rate -1.4%)
Jan 2012 Wis 7.0%, U.S. 8.2% (Wis rate -1.2%)
Jan 2013 Wis 6.9%, U.S. 7.9% (Wis rate -1.0%)
Jan 2014 Wis 6.2%, U.S. 6.6% (Wis rate -0.4%)
Sept 2014 Wis 5.5%, U.S. 5.9% (Wis rate -0.4%)

The job growth in September also more likely reflects the strong U.S. economy of recent months compared to anything being done locally. Wisconsin could have been expected to pick up 5,000 private sector jobs in September as their portion of the nation's September gain of 248,000 total jobs, and 236,000 in the private sector. The first 9 months of 2014 have had the strongest growth in private-sector jobs since the dot-com era of 1999, but Wisconsin isn't sharing in those gains, as even with this good September report, Wisconsin's private sector has only added 17,900 jobs in the first 9 months of the year. That puts us on pace to end up with less than 24,000 jobs gained for the year, which would be the worst job growth of Scott Walker's 4 years as governor.

This reality of the national economy running ahead of Wisconsin's stats was what led me to create the Walker Jobs Gap charts, and even with the strong September, Wisconsin's 8,400 gain was on the heels of a seasonally-adjusted loss of 3,800 private sector jobs in August, leaving the net gain at only 4,600 over the 2 months measured. That's well behind the national pace, and the final tally before the election shows the Walker Jobs Gap at over 70,000 jobs in the private sector, and over 62,000 overall.

So Scott Walker can try to take credit for Wisconsin's added jobs, but in fact, it's the policies of Walker and his WisGOP rubber-stamps in the Legislature that have held the state back. And we're falling further and further behind as the years of Walker's tenure have gone on. You can put your own spin on why that might be, but it doesn't change the fact that the numbers show that statement to be true.


  1. Ok, I make the 45-month jobs deficit 83,587, or 71,680 when you weight by supersector (that's using QCEW for December 2010 - December 2013 and seasonally-adjusted CES for the part year December 2013 - September 2014).

  2. I'll have a similar analysis when the state-by-state numbers come out tomorrow morning, Geoff. I'll basically combine those two figures that you state, and get a "final, more complete" jobs comparison. I'm betting we're still last in the Midwest.