More Bad News on Wisconsin Jobs

Current Population Survey Employment Change for Wisconsin, Bureau of Labor Statistics
1 Month, Rolling 3 Month


There are two major surveys that yield a picture of employment, the Current Employment Survey (CES) and the Current Population Survey (CPS). CES surveys employers while CPS surveys households. They count jobs in slightly different ways, but both measures show how poorly Wisconsin is faring after the recession. Yes, the headline number -- average unemployment rate for the state -- stands at 5.7%, which is below the national average. But the number of jobs in Wisconsin and the number of people employed in Wisconsin still have not recovered from the Great Recession. 

Using the CES measure, employment peaked in June 2007, with 2,889,300 jobs. As of June 2014, Wisconsin is down 29,700 jobs compared to that peak. 

Under the CPS measure that calculates how many people are employed at any given time, the number of people employed in Wisconsin reached its peak in February 2008 at 2,959,841. As of June 2014, Wisconsin has 59,690 fewer people employed in the state.

There are a legion of ways to measure the performance of a local economy. But no measure will show success if people are not working because they can't find jobs!

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Jobs Decline Again in June


*Other Midwest states include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio.

SOURCES: Bureau of Labor Statistics: December 2010 through December 2013 data from Quarterly Census of Employment & Wages, change since December 2013 through 2014 data is calculated from Current Employment Statistics and is seasonally adjusted.

UPDATED JULY 18, 1:45PM: The Wisconsin State Journal has published a new, interactive graphic demonstrating the failure of Wisconsin to keep pace with the nation or with its neighboring states in private-sector job creation.

Different accounts use different data sources, so it is sometimes difficult to gauge exactly where the jobs numbers stand. But at least according to Politifact, Wisconsin has lost jobs in January, February, and now May.

The preliminary jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly Census of Employment and Wages just came out. And how did Wisconsin do? Not well. Roughly 1200 private-sector jobs disappeared in June 2014. Meanwhile, here's the scorecard for some of our neighboring states:

  • Indiana added 10,000 private sector jobs in June
  • Michigan added 19,800 private sector jobs in June
  • Minnesota added 4,600 private sector jobs in June
  • Ohio added 15,700 private-sector jobs in June

Even more discouraging, manufacturing jobs declined by 1,400 in June after dropping by 2,100 in May 2014. The primary sector adding jobs is "Leisure and Hospitality," that is, mostly low wage jobs.

To be sure, the data are volatile and will be revised and refined over time. The more reliable Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages for May 2014, however, won't be released until well after the election in November. So this is the best information we are going to have about the jobs performance in Wisconsin as we head into the election. 

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Governors and Economic Effects: Rebutting Some Baloney

In a recent editorial the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stated that Wisconsin’s “sluggish growth rate likely has to do with Wisconsin’s economic mix” rather than Governor Walker and his administration's policies. We beg to differ. The Walker administration sponsored 2013 Wisconsin Economic Future Study analyzing Wisconsin’s old growth industries recommends four policies that it claims “will elevate the state’s overall business climate”: nurture driver industries; create a forward thinking structure to foster business improvement; address real and perceived skills gaps; and support global opportunities.

Our comparatively poor economic performance stems directly from Governor Walker’s lack of leadership in implementing these recommendations:

  • The Governor’s indiscriminate tax cuts fail to nurture driver industries while at the same time his cuts to educational resources undermine the development of a skilled workforce.
  • Governor Walker’s decision to reject federal funds to improve rail transportation throughout the Midwest fails to demonstrate forward thinking.
  • By siphoning off needed public resources to private vouchers schools, the Governor fails to reduce the skills gap.
  • And because Governor Walker lacks international business experience, he doesn’t know how to encourage exports.

Wisconsin lags its Midwest peers not because governors and their policies don’t affect a state’s economy but because we lack effective leadership to move Wisconsin into the future.

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A Reader Speaks about Bergdahl

This post is the text of an email sent to Grassroots North Shore by Dr. Robert L Seward, MD.

Bowe Bergdahl was rescued alive without the loss of one of our people. In fact, on President Obama's watch, the following crises were resolved successfully without the loss of a single American serviceman or woman: The Somali hostage crisis, the Bin Laden raid, the toppling of Muammar el Gaddafi in Libya, and the recent crisis/showdown with Russia, in the Ukraine. That is remarkable.That is the Obama doctrine, getting things done successfully without getting our people killed or captured.

At the Memorial day service, May 26 2014, at Arlington Cemetery, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran who has worked intimately with the President for a year, said this, in his introduction of the President: "America is approaching another period of transition. As always, these times of change and uncertainty require exceptional leadership. They demand leaders who are strong in the face of challenges, who are wise in the face of complexity, who are prudent in the face of uncertainty, and who are as humble as the courageous individuals they lead. Our Commander in Chief is one of those exceptional leaders.” Coming from Chuck Hagel, that is the ultimate compliment.

Dr. Robert L Seward, MD, is a retired board certified internist. He grew up in Berlin, Wisconsin and graduated from the U of Wisconsin Medical School. He is a licensed physician in Wisconsin and an Air Force veteran (1968-1970). He had the privilege of caring for veterans in Veterans Hospitals for the last 15 years of my career. I have listened to hundreds and hundreds of veterans’ stories and their experiences in combat. Dr. Seward now lives in Oregon.

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The Truth about Walker's Policies and Job Growth

The Journal Sentinel's May 19th editorial on Gov. Walker’s exaggerations about business starts in Wisconsin includes a statement that needs a rebuttal. “We believe there is very little any Governor can do to directly affect job creation.”

In “The Three Little Pigs”, the Big Bad Wolf huffed and he puffed — but he could not blow down the house made of bricks! The forces defending Wisconsin’s status quo can huff and puff about the reasons Scott Walker will not be able to reach his campaign pledge of 250,000 new jobs created during his first term, but they can’t blow away the Governor’s responsibility for the slow job growth.

Private sector jobs increased from January 2011 to February 2014 by 6.8% for the US and by only 4.2% for Wisconsin. Governor Walker’s policies are failing to deliver on the promised 250,000 jobs AND Wisconsin’s rate of job growth is falling short of the United States’ job growth rate. As the United States pulls out of the recession, Wisconsin’s job growth lags US job growth.

While there are many reasons for Governor Walker’s failures, an important reason is that when Governor Walker in 2011 abruptly cut state spending, and reduced the amount of goods and services the state purchases, he reduced demand, which contracted the economy. There are times when such spending cuts are necessary — but not in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930s and not abruptly. Not only did Governor Walker’s spending cuts have the immediate negative effect of reducing jobs, they also are having longer term negative consequences on education and infrastructure and weakening control by local elected officials.

Furthermore, Governor Walker’s decisions to refuse Federal assistance for Wisconsin for developing our infrastructure (the improved rail link between Milwaukee and Madison), and for helping those Wisconsin citizens most in need of help (the rejected Medicaid expansion) exacerbated this lack of progress in job creation.  Instead of hundreds of millions of our federal tax payments returning to Wisconsin, Governor Walker told the Federal government to give that money to other states. Also, state dollars have been substituted for federal dollars to support transit and health care.

Governor Walker made choices based on political ideology instead of what has worked — or not — elsewhere. (See Kansas, which has had poor economic growth in spite of large tax cuts)  A pledge without a sound plan is just a recipe for failure.

The graph shows the difference between the rate of job growth in the US and the rate of job growth in Wisconsin from March 2009, when the recession officially ended, through February 2014. Bars above 0% represent better than average growth of jobs while bars below 0% represent lagging job growth. The data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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Attorney General Town Hall Video

State Representative Jon Richards and Jefferson County DA Susan Happ at our very well attended and very informative forum for the Democratic candidates for Wisconsin Attorney General that took place this Sunday.

Along with Madison DA Ismael Ozanne, we have a great slate of candidates and any one of them would make a great AG.


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Where Are the Jobs, Governor?

The official count stands at 91,678 private sector jobs created from January 2011 through December 2013. That's a mere 37% of the 250,000 private sector jobs Scott Walker promised to add to the state's total by the end of 2014 (BloombergBusinessweek News, May 16, 2014). 

The graph shows the sorry picture: below average job growth, compared to the national average, every single month he has been in office.


So, it's election time again and the guv doesn't have a good record on his signature issue. What to do? Make up stuff. According to Politifact, Walker's been rolling out a new talking point: that "17,000 new ready-to-hire businesses have sprung up on his watch" (Politifact, May 17, 2014). But that number, meant to show that the state is poised to add thousands and thousands of new jobs in the next six months or the next year just "crumbles upon examination," as Politifact puts it.

Why? Because 80% of those "business entities" are LLCs, or Limited Liability Corporations. That type of "business entity" is created primarily for tax and liability purposes. They don't employ anyone!

*graph and data from The Center for Media and Democracy's PRWatch, May 30, 2013.

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