Thursday, January 18, 2018

Wisconsin may be near full employment, but isn't closing the jobs gap

As a desperate Walker Administration tries to convince a very skeptical public that Republican policies are working in Wisconsin, the Department of Workforce Development had its monthly jobs report come out today. And given that it was released by 9am, you could figure that it had news the Walker folks wanted to talk about.
Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.0 percent in December matches the lowest rate on record, and sets a new record for lowest December unemployment rate. The unemployment rate decreased 0.2 percent from November's rate of 3.2 percent and is 1.1percent lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, which was unchanged from November. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate of 68.9 percent was unchanged from November, but the total labor force continued its strong growth, reaching another all-time high in December, preliminary estimates show.
3.0% unemployment is impressive with a high participation rate, indicating that almost anyone that can work in Wisconsin is working (keep this concept in mind for later). The one drawback is that it also underscores the lack of population growth the state has, especially among the working-age population, which also helps explain why the US unemployment rate keeps dropping while job growth slows down.

But this does show that Wisconsin is benefitting from the continued Obama Recovery, and although we are still lagging behind the rest of the country, we are basically at full employment. Which led Scott Walker and other Republicans to use today’s jobs report as the motivation behind… a special legislative session on poor-shaming?
The bills would increase the number of hours food stamp recipients must work to continue receiving benefits, require recipients of Medicaid to pay child support and require drug screening for residents of subsidized housing, among other changes.

"With more people working in Wisconsin than ever before, we can’t afford to have anyone on the sidelines: we need everyone in the game," Walker said. "We want to remove barriers to work and make it easier to get a job, while making sure public assistance is available for those who truly need it."
So Scotty’s administration is talking up how strong Wisconsin’s participation rate is, but he and other suburba-GOPs are claiming there’s a whole lot of people “on the sidelines”? Why, because they’re 80, 15, or disabled? The only way that makes sense is if you have indentured servitude as a goal (hey, wait a minute…)

By the way, the “jobs added” part of today's Wisconsin jobs report wasn’t as impressive.
Place of work data: Based on preliminary data, Wisconsin added a significant 40,200 total non-farm jobsand 43,500 private sector jobs from December 2016 to December 2017, including a significant 11,500 manufacturing jobs. The state also gained 1,300 private sector jobs from November 2017 to December 2017, including 1,200 construction jobs. November private sector jobs gains were also revised up by 2,100, showing that Wisconsin gained a total of 4,900 private sector jobs from October 2017 to November2017.
The upward revision is nice, but 1,300 private sector jobs added in a month is below the US trend. For the whole year, Wisconsin basically kept up with the US rate on the private sector side, and were barely below it for overall jobs.

The problem is that 2017 added the least amount of jobs in America since 2010. And the Walker jobs gap was so huge going into 2017 that it's still at 115,000 private sector jobs, and over 111,000 jobs overall.

What’s not mentioned by Walker’s DWD in that news release is that despite the alleged increase of 11,500 manufacturing jobs in 2017, the December jobs report said that 2,900 manufacturing jobs were lost last month. And as UW Madison’s Menzie Chinn has noted in the past, you should be VERY skeptical that those manufacturing gains will hold when 2017 job totals are benchmarked in a few weeks.

And going back to the special session - will any of these bills will actually make work pay by raising our minimum wage past $7.25, or by removing barriers to employment through paid child care and family leave, or by removing right-to-work (for less) laws and allowing workers to join together to raise pay and work standards? OF COURSE NOT! The only thing that even seemed to come close was this provision.
Allow the Department of Administration to contract with a private provider for payments to provide social, employment or correctional services to individuals and create a "pay for success trust fund" of up to $20 million.
And I don't know what the "success" is in this case. Oh, but they will give Health Savings Accounts to people on Medicaid (I'm sure that'll go a long way with someone that's in such a desperate situation that they're on Medicaid).

The lack of interest in rewarding Wisconsinites who work reveals the real motivation for this unnecessary and policy-stupid “special session”- to distract rubes with race-baiting to try to ward off the Dem wave that is building for the 2018 November elections. It’s a classic resentment play to redirect the people’s rightful anger from Walker’s and WisGOP’s failures to deal with the real problems of underfunded schools and pockmarked roads, and it reeks of desperation.

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