Friday, June 8, 2018

2017 better than 2016 for Wis job gains, but it doesn't bail out a bad Walker era

Now that I have a bit more time, I wanted to expound on the full release from the “gold standard” Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages on Thursday. This came out after getting a topline figure of total jobs a couple of weeks ago (as always, go to the great QCEW map site to take a look at the various state and county information).

These new figures, which broke down both private sector and total job growth, made Wisconsin look better than the subpar total jobs and wages figures we saw in that earlier report.
Wisconsin added 32,259 private sector jobs in 2017, for a growth rate of 1.3 percent, which was 26th in the nation.

That topped Minnesota (1.2 percent), Illinois (1.0 percent), Michigan (1.0 percent), and Iowa (0.5 percent).

But it trailed the national economy, which added private sector jobs at a rate of 1.7 percent in 2017.
Oooh, we almost got out of the bottom half in the US for job growth for the first time since Act 10. ALMOST.

That 1.3% was a good recovery from the awful job growth the state had in 2016, and while we’re still not back to where we were for 2014 and 2015, it’s at least caused the trend line to reverse.

Naturally, Governor Walker tried to spin the results to claim that this meant Wisconsin is in great shape.

Yes, the numbers are nice for 2017. The problem is that it doesn’t come close to erasing the horrible record of job growth in Wisconsin under Walker in the 6 years before then.

If you look at the updated figures from you’ll find that 2017 marks the first time that Wisconsin was not dead last in the Midwest for private sector job growth since Walker and WisGOP came to power. We finally passed Iowa, who flatlined after giving full control to the GOP in the 2016 elections. And we’re still a lousy 6th out of 7 for the Midwest over the last 7 years.

In fact, what that chart shows is that Wisconsin’s 2nd-place finish in the Midwest for 2017 isn’t as much because the state had its job growth kick into a higher level, but because other states fell back to us. Also, we were in such a hole from the first 6 years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan that the same amount of jobs added for us in 2016 is a higher % over than what you’d see in a state like Michigan or Minnesota.

Going further inside the numbers, I note that another bad trend continued for Wisconsin in 2017 – low manufacturing wages. While the state benefitted from the nationwide resurgence in manufacturing employment last year by adding more than 8,000 jobs in the sector (I hate Trump, but this has happened so far), the wages those workers make are still at the bottom in the Midwest.

Average Weekly Wage, Manufacturing Dec 2017
Ill. $1,403
Mich $1,333
Minn $1,297
Iowa $1,243
Ind. $1,187
Wis. $1,150

Gee, and you wonder why we keep hearing stories about Wisconsin manufacturers struggling to hire people? Maybe you should PAY BETTER! Instead, more Wisconsin employers are looking at prison labor as a way to get their work done - not a bad idea in itself if you’re into rehabbing prisoners, but it sure is telling that they don’t want to offer more money to people “on the outside.”

I also wanted to break down the trends by county, as the job gains in 2017 were heavily concentrated in a few areas of the state. Notably, the Milwaukee area finally started to gain jobs (doubly interesting that it happened in a time when the metro area’s population is stagnant at best), while Dane County may be maxing out after having very strong growth throughout the 2010s.

Largest private sector job gains, Wis, 2017
Milwaukee Co. +5,264
Waukesha Co. +4,708
Dane County +2,388
Kenosha Co. +1,949
Brown County +1,808
Washington Co. +1,474
Eau Claire Co. +1,216
Rock County +1,154

Those 8 counties made up more than 60% of the state’s job gains in 2017, and 6 of those 8 leading counties are in the southern 1/3 of the state.

On the flip side, 14 of the 71 counties measured lost private sector jobs in 2017, and 8 of those 14 were located north of Highway 29, and another 4 were located on or north of Highway 10. The biggest losers were also largely in central and northern Wisconsin.

Largest private sector job losses, Wis, 2017
Calumet Co. -307
Waupaca Co. -248
Tremepealeau Co. -208
Oneida County -146
Price County -74
Crawford Co. -74

Not coincidentally, many of the areas that aren’t gaining jobs are also areas that have been losing population in recent years. Scott Gordon from WisContext had a good report on that this week, and this illustration of population growth/loss since 2010 was telling. The darker shades are counties that have fewer people now than in 2010.

And having Walker and the WisGOP Legislature defund K-12 public schools and roads has been especially bad for those rural communities that don’t otherwise have the tax base to compete with the richer Milwaukee suburbs and Dane County when it comes to having top-notch services. Funny how that happens. Also allowing the Walker/WisGOP donors at Hi-Crush to turn the Trempealeau River orange with pollution isn’t exactly going to make people want to live and work there. Just a thought.

In summary, 2017 was a decent year for Wisconsin job growth, especially considering that much of the rest of the Midwest backslid in the first year of the Trump Administration. But that doesn’t come close to wiping away the failures of Scott Walker’s first 6 years in office, which left our state behind everyone else in the Midwest, and we’re still well behind many of our neighbors for the 2010s.

The fact that Wisconsin has so badly lagged the Midwest and the nation since 2010 is one that cannot be ignored between now and November. That situation is true no matter how many tweets may come from Scotty and his lackeys at the Department of Workforce Development to convince you otherwise, and it will not change until they are removed from power.

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