Thursday, October 16, 2014

Under Walker’s tenure, recovery is STILL at a slower pace than it was under Doyle's last year

Latest jobs numbers represent one month of recovery; during other 44 months, Walker’s average rate of growth has been grudgingly slower

**Note** When I first wrote this post, the job numbers I calculated for Gov. Walker were too generous. This post has been updated with more accurate data

We’re less than one month away from an election featuring Gov. Scott Walker, so it should come as no surprise that a jobs report with positive numbers is being scrutinized.

While the report shows that Wisconsin gained 8,400 private sector jobs in September, we ought to remain skeptical. These types of reports, after all, are misleading, based on a survey of less than 4 percent of businesses, and are terribly unreliable.

But don’t take my word for it: that’s what Gov. Scott Walker and his administration have said in the past about these reports in the months leading up to his recall election.

During the last month of the recall campaign, Walker instead cited the state’s quarterly jobs report, which relied on a higher number of businesses surveyed (more than 19 out of every 20 establishments in the state). That survey was released a whole month before it was originally scheduled, a move that some said was done for political rather than practical reasons.

In response, Walker’s administration began releasing those quarterly jobs reports early from that point forward, to at least carry some semblance of consistency. These reports, after all, were the “gold standard,” much better than those phony monthly numbers.

But something happened in the meantime, long after the recall: we were able to compare those quarterly reports to other states’ reports. Wisconsin wasn’t faring too well compared to the rest of the country, nor in the Midwest specifically.

In fact, Wisconsin is dead last in the Midwest in these quarterly reports under Walker’s watch. Despite an errant report from a supposedly neutral news source, from December 2010 to December 2013, Wisconsin grew 93,395 jobs, a four-year rate of growth of 4.11 percent. For comparison, here’s a chart of the states that border Wisconsin, and their rate of growth during the same three years:

As you can see, Wisconsin did not do so well in the first three years, falling behind our border states, and indeed the Midwest region overall.

So what about this latest month? We supposedly gained 8,400 new jobs in September (PDF), and that IS good news. But looking at the bigger picture shows we’re still facing problems.

From the start of this year to the month of this latest jobs report, Wisconsin grew 23,400 jobs. That sounds like a lot, but keep in mind, if we stay at this pace, we’ll create around 31,200 jobs for the year. That’s a slower rate than the last year of former Gov. Jim Doyle’s tenure, when the state created around 33,658 jobs.

In fact, the entirety of Walker’s tenure -- the supposed “Wisconsin Comeback” -- is a slower pace than the Doyle year of recovery. In Gov. Jim Doyle’s last year in office, Wisconsin grew jobs at a rate of about 2,805 jobs per month. In the 45 months since he’s taken office, Wisconsin under Scott Walker’s watch has grown jobs at about 2,473 jobs per month. It might not seem like much, but job growth under Walker is nearly a tenth slower than it was under the first year of recovery under Doyle.

(Chart reflects average monthly job creation from Jan 2010 to present)

Remember that Gov. Walker consistently derides Democratic candidate Mary Burke for proposing that we go back to the way we did things under Doyle, whose administration she briefly served as Commerce secretary for. But maybe we’d be better off under those policies.

We had a faster rate of job recovery, after all, when Doyle’s policies were still in play. And while we can’t necessarily attribute job growth to those policies, we can at least say they didn’t deter a faster recovery than what we’ve seen so far under Walker’s watch.


One more thing to watch out for: these monthly jobs numbers are subject to significant revisions; in some cases they’re altered by several thousands of jobs in the opposite direction. The Walker administration used to point that fact out in their releases. Now that they’re showing positive numbers, that disclaimer is no longer prominently featured in the report.

Next month will be the first revision of those numbers. It will come, however, too late, after the election for governor will have already taken place.

Funny how that works out.

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