Wisconsin’s latest jobs upswing good news for election-bound Walker

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — If next month’s gubernatorial election really is all about jobs, then the latest employment figures — released less than three weeks before election day — allow Gov. Scott Walker to answer the criticisms of his opponent and the left at large with a definitive statement: I got your jobs right here.

Wisconsin’s private sector added 8,400 jobs last month, according to data from the state Department of Workforce Development and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It was a big day for Republican Walker, who has been hit hard by his Democratic opponent Mary Burke for recent up-and-down months on the jobs front and for being a long way from his ambitious prediction that employers would create 250,000 jobs during his first term in office.

Walker and Burke are locked in a dead-heat race, according to the latest Marquette University Law School poll.

LOOKING UP: Wisconsin’s private sector added 8,400 jobs last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a gubernatorial election that’s much about jobs, the latest data is needed good news for Gov. Scott Walker just 18 days from election day

While the latest data suggest Wisconsin’s economy appears to have added 134,000 jobs since December 2010, the message Republicans drove home again Thursday is the employment figures are a hell of a lot better than the jobs hemorrhaging under Walker’s predecessor, Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle. Burke, as Walker’s campaign is quick to point out, served as Doyle’s secretary of commerce for nearly three years.

“This is more great news for working families and it’s more proof that Wisconsin is heading in the right direction under Governor Walker,” Alleigh Marré, the governor’s press secretary, said in a statement. “We’ve come too far over the last four years to let Mary Burke and her failed policies take us backward.”

Walker’s campaign pointed to the workforce development data, underscoring September’s strengths:

  • Last month marked the biggest gains in private sector jobs since September 2003.
  • September’s 8,400 private sector jobs are the second biggest upswing since 1994.
    • Key for manufacturing-rich Wisconsin, manufacturers added about 10,000 jobs between September 2013 and last month.
    • Year over year, the private sector added 37,000 jobs.
  • The 134,000 jobs created since December 2010 are more than the total number of jobs Wisconsin businesses added during the Doyle administration.

That’s an understatement. During Doyle’s two terms in office, Wisconsin’s private sector shed a total of 47,413 jobs. In the Democrat’s first four years, the Badger State economy added 86,530 jobs, more than 23,000 less than the job gains during Walker’s first term, through September. Of course, Doyle’s second term included one of the worst recessions in modern history, which didn’t help his total jobs count. The state’s economy lost 133,000 jobs during Doyle’s final term.

Now what must be made clear, and Walker and the DWD know this as well as anyone, is that the monthly jobs data are preliminary, subject to revision. The “gold standard” of jobs counting is the Quarterly Census of Employment and wages, compiled, as the name implies, on a quarterly basis from unemployment insurance records of about 96 percent of Wisconsin establishments. The QCEW is much more accurate than the volatile, seasonally adjusted monthly employment data.

Taken with other economic gauges, the latest jobs report offers some signs of at least steady growth ahead. September’s unemployment rate dipped to 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 percent in August and 6.6 percent in September 2013. The rate is the lowest it has been since October 2008.

According to DWD, initial weekly unemployment insurance claims for the first 40 weeks of 2014 dropped to the lowest point since 2000, and the annual average weekly claims are at their lowest levels since 2000.

State revenue collections were also $55.3 million higher than projections for the first quarter of the current fiscal year, according to the Department of Revenue.

Republicans, of course, celebrated the latest jobs numbers. Holding the majority in both houses of the Legislature, Republicans pointed to their policies for creating a pathway for business growth.

“Over the last four years, Republicans have built a solid foundation for the future of Wisconsin’s private sector and we have no interest in returning to those failed policies of the past,” said state Rep. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, in a statement.

Meanwhile, it was all quiet on the Democrat front.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate was one of the few partisans on the left to even mention the latest jobs data. Well, sort of.

The only reference Tate made of September’s numbers was in ridiculing the measurement behind them.

“There is only one set of jobs data that matters, the quarterly numbers, and those jobs figures show Wisconsin ranked dead last in the Midwest under Scott Walker,” Tate said, not telling the truth.

The Democrats last-in-the-Midwest talking point, repeated ad nauseum by Burke, has recently been debunked.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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