Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Wisconsin job growth was worse than we knew before election

In addition to the subpar revenue figures from January, (which I went over here), the Walker Administration tried to bury another report last week, as the (right-to) work-for-less debate was raging in the Legislature. That involved the submittal to the feds of Wisconsin's figures for the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages.

That release indicated that Wisconsin added 27,489 private sector jobs from September 2014 through September 2015, and that figure is a major difference between what the state was reporting in the monthly report before the 2014 election, and what they eventually sent with the "gold standard" QCEW report 4 months later.

Private sector job growth Sep 2014-Sep 2015
Monthly jobs report: 37,900
QCEW report: 27,489

That's a difference of more than 10,400 jobs than the info that was out there before the November 2014 elections (things that make you go hmmmm), and if you plug in the figures and compare it to the state's history on the QCEW report, the 27,489 and 1.16% job growth is the lowest since April 2013.

So just like the looming budget deficit, here was another spot where the state of Wisconsin was going downhill before the election, but those facts were obscured by other information leaked out by the Walker Administration and the Wisconsin GOP, and the media wasn't willing to ask any tough questions about it. And when we see the rest of the country's job numbers in the QCEW, Wisconsin will be fortunate not to be in the bottom 10 for job growth in the nation, as the Obama Jobs Recovery was picking up steam over those 12 months while Wisconsin's rate of growth was slowing down.

Sure makes me wonder what the benchmark revisions to Wisconsin's 2014 jobs figures will be. And hey, whaddya know? That report will be released on Thursday along with the January 2015 state jobs report, and the benchmark revision will be partially based on the lower growth suggested by the QCEW. Maybe that's a big reason why they're trying to shove through work-for-less in the Assembly that day- to hide some bad jobs news?


  1. Fewer jobs, larger deficits, increased borrowing and slowing revenues. So what to do? Distract the focus with RTW, 70-mph speed limit, abortion restrictions, no waiting for hand guns, expanding vouchers and drug testing for people down on their luck. Please help us.

  2. The truly disgusting nature of the anti-science GOPers and the hack Wisconsin journalists can be found by tracing the history of their attack on the statistical reporting of jobs numbers in Wisconsin over the past four years.

    If you go back to the archives and see the press releases issued during the Doyle Administration DWD, you'll see the monthly numbers and the quarterly numbers released in a timely fashion coordinated with the national number release for the quarterlies. Even the press releases themselves, while highlighting what Doyle wished to highlight, were rather prosaically quaint in retrospect.

    Contrast that to the spin-doctored release of the monthly data from the Walker Administration (not to mention the barrage of fawning, sychophantic press released praise surrounding any Walker statement on jobs). Look at the campaign to discredit the monthly report numbers in this state early in the Walker regime. The monthly numbers were attacked as "misleading", "inaccurate", "just estimates", and "subject to extensive revision"--and these comments were made many times right in the monthly report release itself.

    And the reaction of the state's hard-nosed media?--to print, verbatim and unchallenged, Walker's propaganda. The MJS and the WSJ even began terming the monthly job data as the "inaccurate monthly job reports". Good f----ing grief! When even the Capital Times termed the monthly reports as "subject to extensive revision", I could only sigh and think of Dean Baker's phrase: "loser liberalism".

    The monthly releases were appended, modified and changed with additional colored graphs and charts until they became…unusable, and almost circus-like is their presentation. And no one took them seriously anymore.

    The quarterly statements became the "gold standard", that is, until the gold standard looked a little tarnished and then the release dates were changed to be six weeks ahead of the national figures. So any increase, no matter how insignificant, was ballyhooed by Walker as part of the "Wisconsin revival".

    And the reaction of the questioning Wisconsin media? . …to print, verbatim and unchallenged, the Walker Administration propaganda, always terming the information "the gold standard", and any comparison to the national figures, when they finally released six weeks later, was spiked as "old news" by the WSJ and MJS.

    Anyone looking at Wisconsin's job data for the past decade can come to the same conclusions…that the bulk (75%) of Wisconsin job growth will occur in Dane County; that the counties close to MN will see job growth; that NE Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee area will see very low levels of job growth; and the rest of the state is circling the drain. And the jobs themselves, as pointed out by the UW-Milw. Dept. of Econ. Dev.; will be low-wage service jobs.

    I commend you Jake for your lonely, one-man struggle, (but let's have a shout-out to the work of Menzie Chin as well) to try and keep this issue alive--I know that the Wisconsin media has no interest in it.

    Dr. Morbius

    1. Doc, I've mentioned the Walker DWD's pathetic spin jobs several times here (this is an example). It's truly disgusting how the media isn't following up and holding Walker and WisGOP responsible for their failures and dishonesty.

      But I gotta keep throwing it out there, especially with Walker trying to raise his national profile, because the man's got a bad tendency not to give the truth when he's speaking to the rubes in other states (or ours, for that matter).

  3. And here's the January jobs report.

    Preliminary December 2014 number of 2,902,300 total / 2,485,500 private revised & benchmarked down to 2,872,000 total / 2,459,700 private.

    That's -30,300 total / -25,800 private of net revision + benchmark. What initially looked like a 54,100 gain for the private sector (touted in January as "the highest December-to-December gain since 1999") is now a new Walker-era low of 28,300.

    1. Yep. Although the Walker DWD claims it's still a gain of 44,000+ for 2014, which would mean the other three years would also be revised down.

      I'll look for the official numbers from the BLS tomorrow, because the claims in the DWD news release aren't adding up. But it definitely shows why they felt they had to jam work-for-less through to distract from the economic failures of job growth and budget.

    2. It would make some sense for the December 2013 figure to be revised somewhat: benchmarking has had a reachback time exceeding 12 months on previous occasions, but 2 years back it hasn't moved much. It does suggest that 2013's CES numbers are being revised to the worst since 2009 and the Great Recession even if 2014 looks relatively good.

      In budget news, February's withholding and sales tax revenues are in and the withholding change-adjusted total is up about 6% and the sales tax revenue is up about 11%. I'm expecting word of how refunds have changed later this month.

    3. Thanks for the tax numbers Geoff. That could close the gap some, although February has the lowest sales and withholding collections of any month (too bad for the Walker Admin). Obviously the tax refund numbers are the big question there.

      And you're right, my quick run of the numbers indicates that 2013 was horrible for job growth, and even with the Walker Admin's spin of "139,000 jobs", the state would have added around 215,000 in Walker's four years if it had merely kept up with the US rate. Massive FAIL

  4. Jake,

    Glad to see you are on it. I was infuriated by the MJS transcription of the Walker claims to be the story headline. Apparently the stenographer that the MJS uses to cover business stories doesn't go and read the entire report and missed the huge drop in jobs because of the benchmarking. But with reporting like that, it's a miracle that the headline didn't read "Walker finds good jobs for thousands of Wisconsinites". And the article was by the same writer (brother is that an over-estimate, more like "typist") who swooned over the number on the December estimates.

    MJS . . .Journamalism at its finest.

    Dr. Morbius

  5. The fix is in. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - the watchdog that didn't bark.

    MJS is beholding to someone, and it's not the citizens of Wisconsin. It's a shame, as much as it is shameful.

  6. Re: the state media's stenographic approach, I've found that if I skim thru the day's press releases on wheeler report, I already know what's going to be in the MJS tomorrow-- not just the subject matter, but the framing of the issue, and most of the quotations too. This goes for pretty much any state govt story. There's no actual value added, or info beyond what went out thru the blast-fax.
    Do you think this is due to reporters being too few in number and just overwhelmed? Incompetence? Need to preserve "access" to the important people?
    Anyway, thanks for always being a million times more thoughtful and informative than MJS, Jake!

    1. I think some of it is laziness and a need to maintain access to politicians, and I do think that JournalComm's corporate bosses play a role here as well (especially when it comes to editors deciding headlines).

      But I also think a lot of reporters don't know the ins and outs of many of these job numbers and budget figures, and they got stories to crank out in a short amount of time. Honestly, this is why I started writing more in 2011, because I realized that our state's media really didn't know what they were talking about as Act 10 and Walker's first budget came out.

      Just because reporters have bylines or mics in their hands doesn't make them experts on what they're reporting on. I know, I've been there in a previous life.

    2. If the reporters don't know the ins and outs, they need to find trusted sources who do.

      Headlines are key - if MJS wanted people to really know what was going on, they could be driving home the issues (e.g., the budget) day after day (especially Sundays) with front page headlines.

      In big, bold letters:
      Wisconsin Budget Deficit Reaches 1.8 Billion. Wisconsin Loses More Jobs.
      Walker Administration Delays Latest Jobs Report Amid Rumors of More Bad News
      Wisconsin Budget Deficit Worsens - Projected 2.2 Billion Shortfall.
      WEDC Fails Another Audit.
      2015 Budget Loaded with Non-fiscal Items. Legislators Not Sure What's in the Budget.
      Wisconsin Park Land: "Open for Business"
      Wisconsin Environment: Business Trumps Citizens Health Concerns
      Republican Legislature Undermines Democratic Process
      Capitol Police Crack Down on Citizens (with pictures showing 5 and 6 officers making "arresting" a person, the head officer pointing at people as if to say "you're next")

      Headlines like these would surely get people's attention.

  7. I'd like to add my thanks as well, Jake for keeping us informed and helping us understand what the budget numbers, jobs reports, etc. really mean.

    I also appreciate your openness to hearing all points of view, your explanations, and the discussions between you and other economics-minded folks.