Saturday, March 12, 2016

New job benchmarks reiterate same story- Wisconsin staying behind

Haven't had too much time to get into this, but there was a somewhat significant Wisconsin jobs report released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Thursday afternoon. And you knew it wasn't going to give good news when the Walker Administration's headline didn't mention job growth or the unemployment rate, but instead promoted that "State Labor Force Participation Rate Grows in January."

And there's a reason why they didn't bring up the jobs or unemployment rate, because those numbers were bad. January's jobs report should always be given extra attention because it benchmarks much of the previous year's numbers to the "gold standard" Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages, which came out for September 2015 earlier this week, and showed Wisconsin to be a lagging 36th in the nation for job growth. Therefore, there are often notable changes in both jobs and the unemployment for states, and Wisconsin was no exception.

For the total jobs figures, what the benchmarking did was flatten out much of the variability in jobs numbers, but the bottom line of overall mediocre job growth continued. UW's Menzie Chinn did a good job in comparing the DWD's previously-reported figures from the December 2015 report (in green) to the new benchmarked figures for January 2016 (in black), and you can especially see the drop in growth starting in early 2015.

I don't find it coincidental that Scott Walker introduced his pathetic "kiss-up to national donors and GOP officials" budget in the early part of 2015, and job growth stalls out at that point. Note the difference in direction of job growth in the 6 months before March 2015 (a month after Walker introduced his budget and the reality of it was sinking in) and the 6 months after (which are the last 6 months that the QCEW benchmarks go to).

Wisconsin pvt. sector jobs, monthly reports Sept 2014-Sept 2015
Sept 2014-March 2015 +37,800
March 2015- Sept 2015 +5,900

But also note the leap in job growth October 2015. This is noteworthy because October 2015 is the first month that aren't covered by the QCEW benchmarks, and that makes me think this number may be revised down in the future as a result. But that may also explain the fact that the state has reverted to mean since then, losing jobs in each of the 3 monthly job reports after that, including 1,400 jobs lost in January.

Wisconsin monthly pvt. sector jobs, Oct 2015- Jan 2016
Oct 2015 +15,400
Nov 2015 -2,000
Dec 2015 -1,200
Jan 2016 -1,400
TOTAL +10,800 (average +2,700)

And adding an average of 2,700 jobs a month in Wisconsin is less than half what we should be adding if we want our job growth to keep up with the rest of the country, and it was even worse in the 6 months before then. This means the Walker jobs growth has blow up wide in since this time last year, getting bigger by more than 32,000 private sector jobs, and reaching over 103,500 jobs during the 5-year reign of error known as the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.

The other side of the January jobs report was also bad, as a frequent Walker talking point of "extremely low unemployment" melted away. The December 2015 estimate of 4.3% unemployment was revised up by 0.3%, and stayed at 4.6% for January. This means unemployment in Wisconsin barely went down at all over the last 12 months (the BLS says Wisconsin unemployment has gone down all of 0.1% since Jan 2015) while the U.S. rate was dropping by 0.8%, from 5.7% to 4.9%. It also means the gap between Wisconsin and the US rate is only 0.3%, by far the smallest difference in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and well below the 1.1% gap that Walker inherited from Jim Doyle in January 2011.

We'll get a wider view of how we measure up with other states who were also benchmarked when the state-by-state jobs report for January is released next week. But I have a strong suspicion Wisconsin won't look very good on either the job growth or unemployment rate sides, and given that U.S. job growth went up strongly in February while Wisconsin continues to flounder economically, I would think the Walker jobs gap will stand to grow in the near future as well.


  1. You do a good job of laying out, in detail, the recent Wisconsin job growth - your data shows Wisconsin's job growth slowing but you don't give any factual reasons why or any constructive suggestions to help reverse this trend. The truth is that Wisconsin is still deeply dependent upon the manufacturing sector for employment - with depressed petroleum prices, our state will not see job growth it - in fact, it may even go lower. This isn't Governor Walkers fault ( or the Republicans ) - blame it entirely on Saudi Arabia for overproducing and helping to keep oil prices low. You need to do a better job of taking a non-partisan approach to your report.

    1. Wrong. Very wrong. Wisconsin's lagging goes directly to Walker's failure to invest in areas that grow human capital, such as education, new technology, and wage growth. In fact, Walker/WisGOP policies have encouraged union-busting, preserving old industries, and massive rent-seeking to the rich and well-connected.

      And what does oil prices have to do with manufacturing? If anything, it lowers the input costs. You're confusing that effect with the stronger dollar, which is a real problem, as is the lack of tariffs and related disadvantages in work standards that have hurt this area of the country.

      But that doesn't excuse why Wisconsin does so much worse than the rest of the country, and our Midwestern neighbors in particular. Sure, I'm biased, but history has also proven me right about these right-wingers and the horrible record they have had on the economy for years.