The November job numbers were released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development last Thursday and job creation in Wisconsin continues to be anemic. Since the Walker administration and the GOP controlled legislature took charge in January, non-farm private sector jobs have risen by 16,300, while government jobs have fallen by 12,400. Total workers employed have risen by 14,400, which means that if the agriculture sector had not shown some modest job growth since December, the job picture would be even bleaker. At the current rate of private job creation, the Governor will not even meet one-third of his promise. The state is currently on track to create 71,000 jobs by the currently scheduled end of the Governor's first term. His campaign promise was to create 250,000 new private sector jobs by January 2015.
What is more interesting than the numbers themselves is the manner in which they were reported in DWD Secretary Reggie Newson's press release. (Newson is the third secretary of DWD appointed in the last ten months. Talk about a tough job to hold.)
The press release contained Newson's attack on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for forcing the state to release monthly preliminary data that were subject to significant revision in the following month:
So there you have it. The perception of the Governor's problem in job creation is the fault of the Feds!“October was the fifth straight month and the eighth month this year in which the federal government overestimated the preliminary job loss numbers or underestimated job gains for Wisconsin,” Secretary Newson said. “I am particularly concerned by the disparity in the October preliminary numbers, which were off by 7,300 for total jobs and 7,900 for private-sector jobs. These unreliable employment statistics out of Washington misinform the public and create unnecessary anxiety for job seekers and job creators about the shape of our state’s economy.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Wisconsin’s revised numbers show the state lost 2,400 jobs in October, roughly a 75 percent correction from their initial estimate of 9,700 jobs. Meanwhile, Wisconsin added 11,000 jobs in June, but BLS initially underestimated that number by roughly 1,500 jobs.
“The most troubling thing to me is the effects these initial estimates have on the perception of Wisconsin’s workforce,” continued Secretary Newson. “The monthly revisions show a much steadier trajectory with gains being higher and losses being much lower than the BLS’ initial reports. While there certainly is more progress to be made, we are moving Wisconsin in the right direction and laying the groundwork for the private sector to create jobs.”
Under an ongoing annual contract between the state and BLS, the monthly employment estimates are generated from a survey of 4 percent of Wisconsin employers. The survey data are transmitted to Washington, where BLS generates the preliminary estimates and sends the numbers to Wisconsin to publish. The BLS revises the estimates as additional data comes in, but the revisions aren’t published until the following month. The BLS’ November preliminary estimates for Wisconsin indicate a decrease in total jobs by 14,600 on a seasonally adjusted basis.
“We are required by the federal government to release its preliminary numbers on a monthly basis, even though the numbers can be off by as many as 9,400 jobs and still be considered by BLS to be within an acceptable margin of error,” Secretary Newson continued. “This margin of error may be fine for Washington, but not here in Wisconsin. In order to address the serious needs of Wisconsin’s workforce, our state needs an accurate jobs reporting system that allows us to understand the trends without unnecessarily alarming the state’s job seekers and job creators.”
But when you unpack what Secretary Newson is saying, his criticisms are really just a effort to divert attention from the fact that Wisconsin's job recovery has stalled out after a relatively quick start in the first several months of the Walker administration. “The monthly revisions show a much steadier trajectory with gains being higher and losses being much lower than the BLS’ initial reports. While there certainly is more progress to be made, we are moving Wisconsin in the right direction and laying the groundwork for the private sector to create jobs.”
The "laying the groundwork" reference has to be seen as an admission that job creation in the first year of the Walker administration has been crummy. And even if one uses the final data for October, rather than the preliminary data for November of this year, the Governor stands to fall short of his job creation promise by one-half, creating only 134,000 new jobs in the private sector.