Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Scott Walker set to distort state job numbers -- he hopes you fall for it, too

Governor set to change the "rules of the game" by switching standards of what qualifies as job growth

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett is skeptical of current Gov. Scott Walker's recent announcement that job numbers to be revised this week by his administration will somehow reveal a "brighter" depiction of the state's overall record.
Barrett says Walker has "brought in a fiction writer" and is going to make up better numbers to tell a better story.
Barrett is right to be suspicious, given the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has already identified Wisconsin as the nation's worst state in terms of job numbers. Unless Walker legitimately finds 20,000 more jobs than what was previously accounted for, that distinction will continue to hold up.

Rick Ungar at Forbes.com has a theory as to why Walker is suddenly pushing this new jobs "revelation": the Walker administration is set to use different numbers, from a different survey, describing jobs in the state.

Rather than using the Establishment Payroll Survey, used by all 50 states of the union, Walker is going to tout the findings from the Current Population Survey, which, as it turns out, favors Walker by about a 20,000 job growth since he took office.

The problem with using that system, however, is that it's...well, frankly flawed for a variety of reasons. The CPS directly calls peoples' homes in the state, asking them if they have a job or not. They take the data they extract, and like any other survey fit it to match the population of the state. The problem is, it asks each person whether they have a job -- not one job, not five jobs, just if an individual has a job.

So if, like many Wisconsinites hit hard by the recession, a person HAD been working two jobs, yet lost one of those jobs, the EPS survey would count that as one job lost. Yet the CPS survey would count both instances as equal -- one person has a job, and nothing's changed. Even part-time jobs, in the CPS survey, count as one full job for those employed.

To be fair, part-time jobs count as jobs in the EPS survey as well; but if a person were working two jobs and lost their full-time job, the EPS would record that loss. The CPS would not.

Ungar points out another flaw in using the CPS survey:
The Current Population Survey (household survey) is particularly tricky when applied to determining the job numbers for a state because of the many people who live on the ‘edges’ of a state who are employed across the border in a different state. By way of example, someone living in Racine, Wisconsin may be able to answer in the affirmative when asked if she has a job. However, what is not asked is whether the respondent is employed in Wisconsin or driving across the border into Illinois to go to work. This makes such an individual’s response useful in determining how many people are working on a national basis but perverts the numbers when attempting to determine how many people are actually working in Wisconsin.
Emphases added.

So what does that mean? It means that, ironically, Walker is set to take credit for jobs created by our neighbor to the south, as well as those to the west and north of us. Those Wisconsin citizens on the border may be "employed in the state of Wisconsin," but they don't represent "jobs created in the state" -- they were created elsewhere, by economic conditions not of Walker's making.

It's interesting to note also that Walker likely won't challenge the EPS findings, just that his numbers are better. In fact, they are worse -- Walker's numbers simply skew what jobs have and haven't been created.

The CPS survey isn't even interested in the number of jobs -- it's more concerned with the number of employed people. Walker's 250,000 jobs pledge is still off some 64,000 jobs, according to some studies.

Switching the standards by which he measures jobs growth three weeks before his recall election is a deplorable, unconscionable action taken by Walker. Not only is it unfair and dishonest, it's hypocritical as well. When the EPS survey showed that Wisconsin was growing jobs early last year, Walker was the first to tout his reforms as "working" for the state. But when headlines screamed "worst in the nation" regarding Wisconsin's job numbers, Walker spent state department resources devising ways he could make the numbers look better.

Changing how you look at jobs won't change the simple fact: under Scott Walker, Wisconsin slipped to last place in the country.


  1. How could anyone beleive what Walker says, after he lied under oath to a congressional comittee.

  2. John Koskinen - Wisconsin Jobs Outlook for 2012 and 2013


  3. The other numbers, from the Quarterly Census, tell a more positive story, one the Walker administration is in a hurry to get out. They are based on a jobs count, not a survey. Each state gathers the quarterly census data from virtually all employers in both the public and private sectors, which are mandated to share staff and wage data as part of their tax and unemployment insurance reports. That makes it a more reliable source of employment data, state officials and many economists say.


  4. "Wisconsin’s economy has improved and, as a result, Wisconsin’s Extended Benefits (EB) period will end April 7, 2012.

    The EB program is in effect when the unemployment rate is high enough to reach levels specified in state and federal law. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate no longer reaches the levels required for the EB program.

    EB is also continued under the new bill (previously EB was to expire March 10, 2012). However, the EB period ends April 7, 2012 due to considerable improvement in Wisconsin’s economy."