Friday, May 20, 2016

April jobs fall hard in Wisconsin- indicating March was a mirage

As usual, going through the Walker Administration’s monthly jobs release is an exercise in searching and cutting through spin. And the April report that was released on Thursday was no exception. Take a look at this, and I’ll bold the big story that I don’t see reported in any state media today.
Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.4 percent in April 2016, down from 4.5 percent in March 2016. The 4.4 percent rate is lower than the 4.6 percent rate in April 2015 and lower than the national unemployment rate, which remained at 5.0 percent in April 2016. Based on preliminary estimates, Wisconsin's total employment remained at a record high in April, growing by a statistically significant 61,100 year-over-year.

The state's labor force also remained at an all-time high in April 2016, and the labor force participation rate held at 68.8 percent, outpacing the U.S. rate of 62.8 percent.

·Place of work data: The state added a statistically significant 39,600 private sector jobs and 42,000 total non-farm jobs from April 2015 to April 2016 on a preliminary basis, including a significant gain of 8,800 jobs in construction. While preliminary April numbers estimate a one-month decline by 11,500 private-sector jobs, the March 2016 estimates were revised upward by 1,600 to show a one-month gain of 14,700 from February.
Wait, WE LOST 11,500 PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS LAST MONTH? That kind of seems like a big deal. But few if any media outlets have picked up on that one, so apparently the Walker DWD’s word-smithing paid off.

And it’s not like the rest of the country was having these same difficulties in April, since the state-by-state jobs report came out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics today, and Wisconsin was mired near the bottom of US state for last month. Meanwhile, our neighbor to the west was having the type of major job growth we claimed in prior months
In April 2016, 11 states had statistically significant over-the-month increases in nonfarm payroll employment and 6 states had significant decreases. The largest job gains were in California (+59,600) and Florida (+31,100). In percentage terms, the largest significant increases were in Minnesota and Missouri (+0.5 percent each). Pennsylvania (-16,900) and Ohio (-13,600) had the largest significant decreases in employment over the month, followed by Wisconsin (-12,600) and Virginia (-12,000). The largest over-the-month percentage declines were in Wyoming (-0.9 percent) and Hawaii (-0.8 percent).
In fairness, some of this job loss was a predictable correction from those too-good-to-be true job numbers the Wisconsin DWD was bragging about in March. My 4 loyal readers may remember yours truly saying as much last month, and I singled out one sector in particular for a snapback, as Wisconsin was one of only 2 states in the Midwest that was listed as adding jobs in this area for March.
(\We seem like quite the outlier, don't we? And February's manufacturing employment figures were also revised up for February, making the gain even larger. Knowing what is going on in the rest of the country and especially the Midwest, does that manufacturing number ring true to anyone here? It certainly doesn't to me.
Sure enough, take a look at April’s Wisconsin jobs report in the manufacturing sector and compare it to March’s revised figure.

Change in manufacturing jobs, Wisconsin
March +4,100
April -4,200

So we’re basically back to where we were in February for manufacturing employment, which rings truer (of course, it might look worse when Oscar Mayer and Tyson Chicken and other plants start shuttering this summer, but we’re not there yet).

I don’t want to take too much away from the progress on the household survey that makes up the “employment/ unemployment” part of the Wisconsin jobs report. Not only did the unemployment claim decline in April to 4.4%, but it also is being done despite growth in the Wisconsin labor force. This is a very different reason than what we saw with alleged declines in that stat in 2015 (which was due to alleged drops in the labor force. Both declines were later revised away).

Low unemployment is definitely a good thing, but Gov Walker made a dope of himself when tried to take credit for it, when tweeted this out, using a graphic that all but screamed #THANKSOBAMA!

So what I’m taking out of this April jobs report is that things weren’t booming as much as the Walker Administration made them out to be in the first 3 months of the year, and things didn’t immediately turn bust in April, despite the reported loss of 11,500 private sector jobs. This is likely an evening out of jobs figures which happens over the course of a few months in these reports, and Wisconsin is still averaging 4,875 private-sector jobs a month for 2016, which is pretty much in line with the national rate.

That’s an improvement over the subpar pace we’ve been on in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, but it also means that the Walker jobs gap is little different than it was at the start of the year- just over 95,500 private sector jobs, and 90,000 jobs overall.

I bet Scotty and the WisGOPs won't be tweeting out those charts when they try to talk up their record before the November elections.


  1. The Cap Times had an informative article on this, but I saw nothing from the two big state newspapers yesterday.

    1. Yeah, Todd Milewski does good work with that. It showed how March's fluky figures were offset by April's, and how Wisconsin is still settling in the low 30s for job rankings nationwide