Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lower Wisconsin unemployment claims - economy, or chicanery?

I noticed this tweet from our fair Guv on Friday as he tried to pump up his flagging presidential campaign.

On the surface, there's a truth behind that claim. Wisconsin's unemployment claims have dropped to low levels, although the recent figures are related to seasonality, as late Summer is usually the lowest time of the year for the amount of new claims, and those numbers will swing up as the weather cools in the coming months.

However, a lot of this reflects the Obama Recovery that the country is seeing, as the U.S. recently had its lowest amount of seasonally-adjusted unemployment claims since 1973. So bragging about the lowest Wisconsin claims since 1990 isn't exactly a huge accomplishment for Governor Walker, but in his typical dishonest way, he won't give you that context in order to take credit for something that is more a symbol of the stronger national economy of recent years.

But there may be more behind Wisconsin's drop in unemployment claims than just the Obama Recovery. The Capital Times' Pat Schneider had an excellent article on Friday discussing the increased regulations and barriers during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan that may be preventing Wisconsinites from getting unemployment benefits after they have been laid off.
The new rule will require workers making weekly unemployment benefits claims by phone to begin faxing or mailing in a log of their weekly job search efforts, according to a notice on the state Department of Workforce Development web site.

The Unemployment Insurance Division of DWD “will validate your work search before issuing payment,” the notice states about the new practice that goes into effect this Sunday.

The notice says that the process could take up 10 days and encourages people to make their unemployment claims online, instead of by phone.

People making unemployment compensation claims by phone previously have been required to keep a job search log that state officials could require them to produce.
Not surprisingly, this could be an issue for people that lack Internet access (especially in rural communtiies) , and makes the DWD the decider of benefits Pat Schneider's article also notes additional burdens put onto Wisconsinites in recent years in order for them to receive their unemployment benefits. This includes a 2013 change that lowered the standard for denial of benefits from "willful misconduct" to "substantial fault", and the wasteful requirement in this year's budget which forces unemployment and food stamp applicants to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits.

In addition, there was a hearing this last week on a GOP bill which would keep people from receiving unemployment benefits if they "intentionally concealed" information on their application. WKOW-TV in Madison had a good rundown on the bill and hearing last week, and this key segement shows the differences in how both Wisconsin parties view unemployment applicants.
"I didn't want to penalize them on the first strike," said Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem), who co-authored the bill. "I thought, you know, seven years, if they do it more than once it's giving us as taxpayers and people who are utilizing the system some measures of accountability."

But Democrats on the committee said many people who make simple mistakes on their forms will be penalized unnecessarily. They also want some distinction between lower and higher dollar fraud amounts.

"The author told me that she views someone stealing a dollar from their mom's purse and a bank robber totally the same," said Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton). "So we aren't even going to be able to talk about the amounts of fraud in this bill."."
Funny how the GOPs care more about how "those people" might cheat the system, while Dems are more concerned with the real-life outcomes on people that may have fallen on hard times. We really do live on two separate planets.

These GOP moves against the unemployed receiving benefits leads to an obvious question. Is the Walker Administration and the Wisconsin GOP intentionally trying to keep people from receiving unemployment benefits they are entitled to, and is it being done in part to deceive Wisconsinites and the nation on how bad Scott Walker's record truly is when it comes to job creation (or destruction)? The policies and the outcomes certainly seem to match up with what the Walker 2016 campaign would like to see, but it may be the result of questionable methods that they don't want people to know about.

It sure seems like this requires more examination from state officials...if we could find WisGOP officials that are interested in doing so. Instead, we are busy wasting $1.4 million in taxpayer dollars to pay a private contractor from Boston for a jobs data site that won't be used. Is this cluelessness, incompetence, or just plain hating and possible discrimination against those who have lost their jobs? I don't find any of the three answers acceptable in its current form.


  1. I really wish the legislators actually understood how UI works......Rep. Kerkman, who co-authored the bill. seems to imply that it's funded by "us as taxpayers" which it isn't. UI benefits are funded by employers, not general tax collections. And you are on to something Jake -- UI claimants have to jump through many more hoops to get benefits under the Fitzwalkerstan administration, so that definitely has an impact on lowering claims, in addition to the "improving in spite of Walker" economy.

    And the Burning Glass fiasco is interesting. Lucky to get off with only spending $1.4 million. Somebody should look up what the Burning Glass partners have donated to the R's.

  2. Working for years at a Job Center, the employees here have always known Walker was making people jump through a million hoops so they would give up and go away. I think those of us that use computers daily forget that many Wisconsinites don't have even the most basic of skills. When you have to complete several tasks online, including posting your resume, before being able to receive your UI benefits, it's not unusual for people to just take a pass.
    And for those who say everyone should know how to use a computer...why? The Boomers didn't grow up using them and when you work for thirty years in a paper mill, thinking you'll retire there, it's not a necessity. When that paper mill closes, you come out into the Twilight Zone.