Saturday, September 17, 2011

Assessing August's -- and Walker's -- job numbers

Still think Walker's "reforms" are adding jobs? Think again.

The latest employment numbers are out, and it's not good news. Wisconsin saw a drop in employment, which the Department of Workforce Development addressed this week.

However, despite a loss in jobs and a growth in our unemployment rate (from 7.8 in July to 7.9 in August), the DWD tried to keep things positive (PDF):
Even during these challenging times for our nation’s economy, Wisconsin has added manufacturing jobs over the month and, since December 2010, has outpaced the nation’s rate of manufacturing job growth by more than double,” Secretary Baumbach said. “And while Wisconsin showed a slight drop in private-sector job totals during August, we’ve created a net 29,600 private sector jobs this year, reflecting a rate of growth that is stronger than the nation’s. Overall, we are on a positive path and we expect to see continued improvement over the long term.
The important part about that statement is that it's not comparing the total number of jobs created so far during the Walker administration. That statement is based on jobs created in the year from the current date to 365 days ago -- so, from August 2010 to August 2011.

It's also comparing the total number of jobs in the private sector alone, not jobs altogether. Let's compare those numbers, using the same data DWD is looking at. From August 2010 to August 2011, total number of jobs (both public and private sectors) went up by 24,700.

So what about during Walker's term? Using the data that DWD uses, total jobs, both public and private, went up by 22,400, which would seem to imply most of the job gains from the past year (again, August to August) were due to reforms passed by Walker.

However, the numbers that DWD are using aren't entirely honest.

DWD uses numbers from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, which measures the number of jobs created based on payrolls provided. There's a significant problem, however, with using that data set:
The headline jobs number from the CES survey (also know as the establishment or payroll survey), counts the number of employees on employer payrolls...

Imagine an individual already working part-time takes a second part-time job to increase his income. On the CES survey, one more job has been added.
A more accurate jobs survey, and the one primarily used to measure unemployment, is the Current Population Survey (CPS):
The CPS employment number comes from a survey of households for employed individuals (thus its alternative name -- the household survey). The CPS is also where the unemployment rate data comes from...

The CPS, however, does not count [a combination of two jobs for one person as two] in its employment number because the person was already employed and they're counting employed individuals not unique jobs. So while the CES employment number would go up when this person takes the new part-time job, the CPS employment number would remain the same.
This changes things drastically.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post that addressed the number of jobs created this year by the Walker administration. The data I looked at for that post used numbers from the CPS, not the CES survey.
Wisconsin's job numbers since Walker took office haven't been stellar. When Walker became governor, Wisconsin had 2,819,301 citizens with a job, and a 7.4 percent unemployment rate. In July, Wisconsin had a higher unemployment rate (7.8 percent) and a lower number of Wisconsinites with jobs (2,818,998). (Jobs data obtained at the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Those numbers were comparing January of this year to July's employment assessment using CPS numbers. Let's now compare August's employment report to the beginning of this year.

August saw a fall in employment numbers. The CES numbers show a drop of about 2,300 jobs. But remember, CES is total number of jobs lost, not the total number of people who became unemployed. The CPS numbers, which reflect that standard, show that 2,969 people actually lost their job status of being employed.

The year-to-date totals are even worse to mention: The total number of employed Wisconsinites in August was 2,816,003. In January, the total number of employed persons was 2,819,301, a difference of 3,298 individuals losing employment status since Walker took office.

Interestingly enough, looking again from the August 2010 to August 2011 numbers, Wisconsin actually gained jobs overall (10,982). But net gains from that time period were mainly from the Doyle administration, not Walker's. Between August 2010 and December 2010, Wisconsin added 12,021 more individuals to the status of "employed."

To be fair to Walker, jobs continued to increase during the first half of this year -- from January to May, Wisconsin saw an increase of more than 24,903 individuals employed. But from May to August, that number was eliminated entirely (plus some), with the total amount of employed Wisconsinites in the state lessened by 28,201 in just 3 months' time.

That short upward blip could be from a number of factors -- including conditions that may still have carried over from when Doyle was governor.

That can't be definitively concluded, but this statement can be: that blip was part of an upward trend in job increases that began while Doyle was governor, uninterrupted from August 2010 by any loss in job numbers; the sudden decrease in the number of employed individuals, however, was during Walker's term alone.

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