Thursday, March 5, 2015

As predicted, Wisconsin job numbers revised way down

I figured the release of the monthly jobs report in Wisconsin would be a big deal today, given the benchmarking of 2014's numbers along with past years. And boy was I right. Take a look at Page 3 of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development's release from this afternoon, which was conveniently dumped out as the (right-to) work-for-less debate lifted off in the State Assembly.

Revisions to December 2014's total jobs numbers, Wis.
Private sector jobs -25,800
Total jobs -30,300

You're reading that correctly, the total amount of jobs in Wisconsin were knocked down by more than 30,000! I knew there were big differences, but this was quite a bit more than I was expecting. Needless to say, the Scott Walker's DWD chose not to emphasize this fact in their propaganda analysis.
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) preliminary state employment and unemployment estimates for January 2015, showing Wisconsin's unemployment rate dropped to 5.0 percent, its lowest point since August 2008.

DWD today also released BLS' revised employment estimates for each month in 2014 and previous years showing Wisconsin added 139,000 private sector jobs since December 2010. BLS adjusted the monthly job estimates through an annual process called “benchmarking” to bring the sample-based series into closer alignment with actual job counts from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
The unemployment rate drop is nice, but likely reflects growth of Wisconsinites taking jobs outside of the state's borders, and working in places such as the Twin Cities and Chicago (which would be a reason why the household and workplace surveys have been out of whack for the last few years). And of course, that alleged private sector job growth of 139,000 is a whole lot less than the 250,000 Scott Walker promised in his first four years in office, and also is quite a bit less than the 160,000-170,000 that was being listed after the December 2014 report.

It also is well below the national rate of growth during the Obama jobs recovery. Remember that the US numbers were benchmarked last month, but they were revised higher, which means the Walker jobs gap is as high as ever. I've updated the chart using the DWD's info on December and January year-over-year job growth, but haven't updated every month, which will show you the effect of these downward revisions, especially in December 2014 (in red on the right side of these charts).

I'll update this a bit tomorrow, but at first glance, this makes the Walker jobs gap stand at 90,000 private sector jobs. U.S. job growth was at a rate approximately 60% higher than Wisconsin's over Scott Walker's 4 years. Combine that with the exploding budget deficit, and who is this guy to talk about his economic record? What a total failure!

Of course, part of the reason Walker was retained was his administration's abilities in hiding this bad record, and another part was the state's largest newspaper helping him along by not informing the public of the full story. And today was no exception. Check out these leading paragraphs from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's John Schmid.
The economic recovery advanced into January as Wisconsin's unemployment rate declined to a preliminary 5%, down from 5.2% in December and 6% in January 2014.

Thursday's monthly estimates from the state Department of Workforce Development show the state's unemployment rate hovering at the best levels since August 2008, about a month before the financial market meltdown in that year triggered a brutal global downturn. In the worst months of the last recession, the state jobless rate peaked at 9.2% in 2009 and 2010.

The state appears to be tracking the national recovery, now in its fifth year. On Thursday, the state agency said Wisconsin gained 44,900 private-sector jobs from December 2013 to December 2014 — the highest 12-month December-to-December increase since 1999. That parallels the national trend in the same 12-month period, when U.S. employers capped the best year for job growth since the tech-boom year of 1999.
Nowhere in the article does Schmid mention the huge downward revisions, or the fact that Wisconsin's numbers still greatly lag the US's growth rate. That would seem to be the bigger story than repeating the Walker Administration's happy talk.

Here's my question- is Schmid stupid, gutless, or under orders not to the real story to J-S readers (most of whom don't have a clue about the DWD report or have any frame of reference for comparison)? Whatever the reason, articles like that from the J-S's staff Walker stenographers go a long way toward explaining why I don't give that newspaper a dime, and you shouldn't either.


  1. I think you're being a bit harsh on Schmid here: when the December DWD report came out with its "12-month gain in private-sector jobs by a statistically significant 54,100
    from December 2013 to December 2014", Schmid reported on it and soberly led with the static unemployment rate of that report rather than the good preliminary gains for December and the apparently excellent 2014 total all while emphasizing the shortcomings of the monthly data.

    In comparison, then, Schmid didn't draw attention to - didn't mention, even - the preliminary unbenchmarked 2014 total gain figure now known to be bogus. Schmid's readers could have come to an inaccurate view of 2014's jobs performance that is wrong only by adding up each month's report; as far as giving the public the wrong impression goes it's a very subtle aggregate one.

    While the size of this revision is a big deal, I don't see any gubernatorial press releases emphasizing the preliminary-and-badly-wrong 54,100 number; Walker's spokesdrone mentioned it once and that seems to have been the extend of the Walker Admin's happy talk. Presumably it was de-emphasized (I don't count DWD's emphasis since the DWD always pushes the sunniest spots of each monthly report no matter the party in power - it's part of their job to make Wisconsin look as bustling as possible) since 2014 rounded out Walker's complete failure to get anywhere close to his 250,000 promise. It wasn't really a popular myth that needed to be dispelled.

    You are of course quite right to criticize Schmid for not mentioning this revision at all, but I think you go too far in reading motivations into that. I have found him receptive to pointing out issues with the jobs data he reports and I've even gotten him to correct stories involving Wisconsin's job growth rankings on more than one occasion.

    1. Geoff- That's incorrect on both counts. Here's a DWD release from late January talking about "54,000 jobs gained." And there's been plenty if related happy talk from Walker and company on the campaign trail to this effect.

      As for Schmidt- there's no excusing what he did. He either is the laziest "journalist" ever, and stopped reading the release after page 2, or he ignored the revision entirely .

      The only way he gets off the hook is if the right-wing bosses at the JS spiked him referring to the huge downward revisions. Possible, but not likely

    2. No, I'm quite correct on the first count: there are no Walker press releases about the preliminary 2014 value and I was explicit about why DWD themselves shouldn't be counted.

      On the second, that's subjective of course, but if there really were an institutionalized bias here as you have suggested is possible then you need to explain why the low-hanging fruit of the 54,100 figure wasn't trumpeted to death in the initial report of the December figures instead of being completely ignored by Schmid and the MJS.

    3. It isn't a matter of intentional institutionalized bias, it is a matter of banality.

      MJS' sports scrivener, Don Walker, is another perfect example. If you want take a look at what someone in the field writes regarding the explicit MJS bias towards a very shaky rationale for the new arena and the reporting levels:

      If you look at the Schmid piece you will see that he cites the department's statement on jobs through the end of December 2014. The only source for jobs through the end of 2014 are the Monthly Reports. Then no more than a paragraph away, without using the statement to qualify the DWD statement on y/e 2014 jobs, having changed the subject of the paragraph, Schmid repeats the oft-mouthed statement that Walker used when the monthly numbers didn't look so good, that the monthly reports are inaccurate, subject to extensive revision, blah, blah, blah.

      And, of course, the DWD release counts. Secretary Newsome is a virtual alter ego for Walker. The number of press releases from the DWD have tripled over the Doyle Admin. And content analysis would show that they are mostly glowing congratulations of the "Great Leader" mold.

      Banality is its own motivation.

      You are not correct.

      Dr. Morbius

    4. If it's banality rather than intentional bias then I was correct that Jake's criticism of Schmid was too harsh to include that accusation.

      On the DWD, take the last pre-2010 election release for instance: there's a loss of nearly 10,000 jobs there yet the lead is about how much the unemployment rate dropped. The DWD has always put the shiniest gloss on the monthly report, see e.g. this report from the depths of the Great Recession, leading with the seasonally-unadjusted data. Putting a positive spin on the numbers - even to the point of contrivance - is not something introduced by Newson under the Walker Administration despite him being a Walkerbot.

      As to the number of DWD press releases, there were 119 in 2007, 128 in 2008, 105 in 2009, 196 in 2010, 128 in 2011, 168 in 2012, 150 in 2013 and 238 in 2014. That's a 25% increase from Doyle's last term to Walker's first, nowhere near the 200% one that you claim.