Wisconsin’s own stats support Walker’s claims of job gains

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
Font Size:

Relying on an alternative set of jobs numbers, embattled Wisconsin Gov Scott Walker is touting job creation during his term in office, saying numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics — which show Wisconsin losing jobs during that period — are not accurate.

The new numbers from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, calculate that Wisconsin added more than 23,000 jobs between December 2010 and December 2011, the first full year of Walker’s term.

During his campaign, Walker promised to add 250,000 private sector jobs in his first term as governor.

The numbers diverge sharply from BLS stats, which showed Wisconsin lost 33,900 jobs over that same period. That put the Badger State in last place for job creation nationwide.

Wisconsin’s number-crunchers claim their numbers are more accurate because they are based on data from “nearly all Wisconsin businesses.” The BLS numbers, by contrast, are an estimate based on data from 5,500 Wisconsin companies, which comprise just 3.5 percent of the Wisconsin workforce.

“It looks like 160,000 Wisconsin employers helped show us the thousands of new jobs that BLS estimates missed last year,” Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said in a press release. “The bottom line is Wisconsin added jobs in 2011.”

“The BLS’ monthly job estimates are volatile and not in line with the economic growth we see throughout the state,” Newson added. (RELATED: More on Scott Walker)

The Associated Press cited economists calling Wisconsin’s numbers more accurate than the federal government’s.

Republican strategist Brian Schimming noted that other economic indicators suggested a net gain in jobs. For instance, the state’s unemployment rate declined from 7.8 percent in December 2010 to 6.9 percent in December 2011.

Democrats shot back, calling these new numbers “reality-distortion” via the Democratic Governors Association’s Kate Hansen.

“If you don’t like the facts, I guess you can just create your own,” she said.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel questioned the timing of the numbers’ release, noting that states don’t normally release their own numbers until they BLS has reviewed them. The federal government, typically, releases them to the public and the media. If that procedure were followed, the numbers would not have come out until June 28.

But Walker faces a recall election on June 5, following a campaign to oust him after he signed a law limiting collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions.

His Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, called the release of the numbers a “political stunt,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

But the latest polls consistently show Walker leading his opponent. A Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday afternoon has Walker leading Barrett 50 percent to 44 percent. Even a Democratic-leaning poll released last week by DailyKos and Public Policy Polling found Barrett behind by four points.

“The Democrats actually are now reduced to attacking the DWD [Department of Workforce Development] for the timing of the release,” said Wisconsin Republican strategist Brian Schimming.

“You can’t take issue with the accuracy of the numbers,” he said, noting that “the original numbers report is always revised.”

He added, tongue-in-cheek, that the numbers are “prepared by unionized civil service people, and apparently they are now in on the plot” to oust Walker.

Follow Alexis on Twitter