Saturday, April 12, 2014

Walker administration brags about unemployment ranking that shows we’re actually doing worse nationally

DWD issues press release that says we have 20th lowest unemployment rate in the nation; previous ranking under former Gov. Doyle was 16th

Earlier this month, a relatively unnoticed press release was issued by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (PDF). In it, the DWD looked at Wisconsin’s unemployment rate as compared to other parts of the country, noting that Wisconsin was ranked in the better half when placed in order (from lowest rate to highest).

“Today's U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that Wisconsin's 6.7 percent annual average unemployment rate for 2013 ranked 20th best in the country and below the national rate of 7.4 percent,” Secretary Newson said.
At first glance, that seems like a big deal: Wisconsin is doing better than 60 percent of the other states in the nation, in terms of preliminary unemployment rates for last month. And to someone who isn’t doing the research, it might imply that things are going in a better direction, a belief that a majority of Wisconsinites hold according to some recent polling.

But if preliminary estimates -- a measure that the Walker administration has previously been critical of -- is the measure we’re going to use, then the state DWD needs to acknowledge we’re going backwards, not forwards, with our ranking.

In December of 2010, the final month of former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s term (and one month before Republican Gov. Scott Walker assumed office), the preliminary estimates for the state showed that Wisconsin had improved its unemployment rate from the year before, by a full one percent.

Where did the state rank in terms of other states in the country? Preliminary estimates at that time showed we were tied for 16th place in the nation for lowest unemployment rate, four places better than we are today.

Most people, when pressed for an opinion, would consider going from 16th to 20th place a major step backwards, not something to brag about in a press release.

When looked at in terms of recovery, we again see that the state ranked better before Walker became governor. The December 2010 quarterly release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Wisconsin’s 12-month change in employment improved by 1.5 percent. At that time, only 11 states did better than Wisconsin for that year, under Democratic Gov. Doyle.

What about Gov. Walker? How has the state recovered under his tenure? In the December 2012 quarterly release, two years after he became governor, Wisconsin again had a 1.5 percent increase in employment. But this time, 33 states, plus one territory and the District of Columbia, did better than our state.

This shows that, while Wisconsin had an initially strong recovery under Doyle, the policies of Gov. Scott Walker have left our recovery in a stagnated position. In short, our state HASN’T improved under Walker, all while more states overall have surpassed our recovery rate.

One last item to point out: in the press release mentioned above, the DWD points out that our unemployment rate is “lower than Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio,” again implying that this is a major feat of the Walker administration. In fact, while Gov. Jim Doyle was in charge, our rates were lower than those states as well, indicating that the Walker administration is bragging about something that, once again, had already been accomplished by his predecessor.

I don’t think I speak for myself when I say this news is disappointing, not something worth celebrating. The Walker administration is using press releases like these to brag about successes that are, in reality, major steps backwards. And it’s a shame that these media devices will likely succeed in convincing some of the public that he’s the choice they want for Wisconsin.

But Wisconsin deserves better than 20th place; we deserve to do as well, or better even, than where we stood before Walker took office, not worse like we've performed under his watch.

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