Wisconsin’s job growth lags in national survey

Originally Posted on The Badger Herald: News via UWIRE

While the latest employment report showed an upswing for the national economy, job growth indicators suggest Wisconsin’s economy is failing to keep a similar pace.

Private sector businesses nationwide added 246,000 jobs in February, reducing the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, the lowest rate since 2008, according to Friday’s U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

However, a January report from the bureau said Wisconsin is ranked 42nd in private-sector job creation based on data collected between June 2011 and June 2012.

These two sets of data form an inaccurate comparison, Department of Workforce Development spokesperson Dick Jones said in an email to The Badger Herald. 

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Current Employment Statistics said Wisconsin has lost 19,100 jobs from June 2011 to June 2012, Jones said the actual state-level job count according to DOL’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages shows Wisconsin gained more than 35,500 private-sector jobs during that time span. 

The QCEW surveys about 95 percent of Wisconsin employers, while only 3.5 percent of CES’ surveyed businesses are in Wisconsin.

Although Gov. Scott Walker admitted Wednesday his quarter million job growth goal his first term was unfeasible, Jones said Walker’s 2013-15 proposed biennial budget is committed to targeting economic development.

“Improving Wisconsin’s business environment and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation will help grow Wisconsin’s economy,” Jones said. “At the same time, preparing workers to find jobs in the modern workforce will help Wisconsinites prosper and further strengthen our state’s economy.”

Wisconsin added only 3,900 nonfarm jobs in all of 2012 after the state gained 5,200 nonfarm jobs between December 2011 and January 2012, according to BLS. The bureau said Wisconsin’s job growth rate was one-tenth of the U.S. rate in 2012 — 0.14 percent compared to 1.40 percent job growth nationally. 

As of BLS’ most recent employment data for Wisconsin since December, the state has also lost 15,900 nonfarm jobs since January 2011. In December, total nonfarm employment for the state was 2,858,644 according to Department of Workforce Development’s statistics.

Political science professor David Cannon said Walker’s spending cuts may be causing Wisconsin’s employment situation.

“With all the cutbacks in state spending — Act 10 cut spending for public sector jobs, especially in education — it takes money out of the economy and creates lower demand,” Cannon said. “That kind of a policy was a drag on the economy, so it didn’t grow as fast as states around us.”

Cannon added there are two paths to economic prosperity: Walker’s approach to balancing the budget through low taxes and decreased spending, which encourages business growth, or an increased role of government in public program spending to build a long-term base for the future, a strategy President Barack Obama has advocated.

Walker’s fiscal policies have not created more private-sector jobs in the short term, however, the governor has said all along his plan is geared toward the long term, Cannon said.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation spokesperson Tom Thieding agreed the state’s financial strategy would take time to advance the state’s economy.

“A lot of what we’re doing will not mean immediate changes,” Thieding said. “Most of these are multi-year investments.”

He said WEDC is currently using a “multi-pronged approach” to support business looking to expand, developing capital programs that help entrepreneurs get started and helping foster an environment where businesses want to relocate to Wisconsin. 

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