In addition to the monthly Wisconsin jobs numbers that came out (click here for that post), Thursday also featured the release of the “gold standard” Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages. As usual, I recommend that you take a look at the excellent QCEW map to see how Wisconsin fares compared to other states in the country, as well as break down the county-by-county figures within the state.
The topline figures show general improvement from the dreadful numbers of past QCEW reports, with Wisconsin gaining just under 40,000 private-sector and overall jobs in the 12 months from March 2014-March 2015. The 1.47% overall and 1.72% private-sector increase in jobs is a slight bump up from the 1.38% (overall) and 1.55% (private) increase for 2014, and it placed Wisconsin 30th in the nation for its rate of job growth, up from 38th in the last report. It also got Wisconsin into the middle of the pack among its Midwestern neighbors, after languishing at or near the bottom in most of these quarterly surveys for the last 3 ½ years.
While I guess being near the middle is better than being toward the bottom of this list, it’s sort of like how it’s nice that the Brewers are ahead of the Reds (well, as of the start of play tonight), and therefore are staying out of last place in the NL Central – it doesn’t make the season successful. This chart from a data-filled and well-balanced article from the JS’s Tom Daykin and Kevin Crowe shows that the “improvement” still leaves us well below the national average when it comes to adding jobs, as we have been throughout the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.
By the way, notice where we were at the point the chart begins, in Q1 2011? That quarter ended in March 2011, which is also the month that Act 10 was jammed through the State Legislature, reducing take-home pay and bargaining rights for public employees. You see that Wisconsin hasn’t made it back to that level of job growth since that time, while the U.S. has consistently surpassed that mark. I’m not going to say correlation = causation, but I don’t find it coincidental either.
And this brings me to another stat in the most recent QCEW report, relating to wages. The overall private sector wage picture in Wisconsin seems very good at first glance, as average weekly private sector wages grew by 2.8% in this time period, making Wisconsin 8th in the nation, and 3rd in the Midwest. Wages have been a laggard in this state (we were bottom 10 in this metric at times last year), and so this is good news for workers who have been jacked around a lot in this state.
But that number masks a downside, as Wisconsin will still only 30th in the nation for private-sector weekly wages, at $879 a week, and was the 3rd lowest in the Midwest (only Iowa and Indiana are lower). Also interesting to note is that the Number 1 private sector wage gainer in America for this time period was those Dem-voting socialists across the St. Croix in Minnesota, whose raise of 4.4% made its average wage more than $220 a week higher than Wisconsin’s.
This lower-wage trend is especially pronounced in manufacturing, and that figure is especially intriguing because (right-to) work-for-less legislation in Wisconsin was signed by Governor Walker in March 2015, with the argument that union-negotiated higher wages were restricting the ability of businesses to expand. Except that Wisconsin wasn’t paying high wages to manufacturing workers to begin with, and those workers had barely received any raises at all in the 12 months before work-for-less was signed.
Change in average weekly manufacturing wage, Mar 2014- Mar 2015
Average weekly manufacturing wage, Midwest March 2015
That $1,068 a week average wage was 38th out of the 50 states, by the way. It proves what a lie it was to think that spiraling, high wages in manufacturing were an economic concern in Wisconsin. And that was BEFORE (right-to) work for les was signed. In recent months, hiring in manufacturing in Wisconsin has stopped, unlike the good trends we’d seen in the months leading up to the signing of work-for-less legislation. Which is the exact opposite of what the WMC honks and other right-wing greedheads claimed would happen.
Manufacturing employment change, Wisconsin 2013-2015
Aug 2013- Dec 2013 +3,300
Dec 2013- April 2014 +3,800
April 2014- Aug 2014 +2,000
Aug 2014- Dec 2014 +4,000
Dec 2014- April 2015 +4,300
April 2015- Aug 2015 -1,100
Now yes, maybe some of that reflects the tough times we’ve seen the manufacturing sector in recent months with a stronger dollar and other trends. But if (right-to) work-for-less was the magical cure to unlocking economic stagnation that the righties claimed it was, then it would have counteracted those problems, and led to continued hiring in that sector in recent months. That clearly isn’t happening. In fact, it seems to be quite the opposite- low wages are leading qualified candidates to seek employment in other states where wages are higher and unions are respected.
So while the QCEW report shows Wisconsin had a slight pickup in hiring and in the national ratings in the early part of 2015, it doesn’t come close to counteracting the dire situation the state was in beforehand, in no small part due to policies passed in the first 4 years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. And these QCEW figures show a time period before more regressive policies took effect, such as (right-to) work-for-less and the cuts to education implemented in the state budget. Combine that with mediocre income tax revenue figures and bad monthly jobs reports this Spring, and it seems likely that this "improvement" is a one-time blip, with the state returning to the well-below par status that it has consistently been in since Scott Walker took power in 2011.