Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is Governor Walker Falling Behind the Power Curve on His Jobs Promise?

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development's monthly job numbers just came out at noon today, and the month-to-month changes reflected in them are not any prettier than the nation's as a whole, and in some sense less pretty.

The adjusted rate of unemployment for August in the Badger State ticked up a tenth of a percent from 7.8% in July to 7.9% in August, still better than the current national average of 9.1%.  However, the national unemployment rate dropped from 9.6% to 9.1% over the past twelve months, while Wisconsin's employment rate over the same period only improved by an abysmal one-tenth of a percent, 8.0% in August 2010 to 7.9% last month.  The improvement in the U.S. rate looks even better than Wisconsin's when you consider that the labor force in Wisconsin grew by only 6,400 people in that twelve-month period, while the U.S. labor force grew by close to 2,000,000.

I previously suggested during the turmoil back in February and March that if Governor Walker could show, by this November, a solid trend-line towards meeting his campaign promise of 250,000 new jobs by January 2015, it would help to take wind out of the sails of the recall effort.  For many months thereafter, the monthly job numbers favored his being able to accomplish this.  Now they have stagnated for several months, and if extrapolated at the current rate of job creation, the Governor will fall short of his promise by some 50,000 jobs.  Moreover, if you assume that the scoring on total job creation for the Governor should really begin with the improving February 2011 job numbers, based on the seemingly logical concept that his budget policies didn't kick in until then at the earliest, the job creation extrapolation is wretched, with only 125,000 new jobs created by the end of his first term, or half of what he promised.

The Governor's focus on private non-farm job creation also serves to obscure the fact that the DWD figures for total employment reflect that the state actually shed 1,000 total jobs since the governor came to office. Presumably this total loss was caused by a loss in farm employment, which seems strange given that farming is becoming a boom industry now with third-world demand for more protein and caloric diets.

I have to guess that the Governor is now torn between ostensibly toeing the Tea Party/Eric Cantor/Jim DeWine line on the President's new American Jobs Act, and hoping desperately for the bill to pass in its entirety.  Will the President and Governor Walker be strange bedfellows growing out of their similar promises on jobs?  All politicians need to be strange bedfellows when it comes to job creation.

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