While the final 2012 numbers won’t be out until later this month, Wisconsin is near or at the bottom among states on the job growth front.
Preliminary estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show Wisconsin 40th among the states in percentage job growth over the past year.
And going back two years, Wisconsin is No. 50 in percentage change, with an actual decline of 15,900 jobs since January 2011. Rhode Island and Maine are the only other two states to show a jobs decline over the past two years.
“Well, somebody has to bring up the rear when it comes to recovery from the recession,” says Lee McPheters, research professor and director at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
North Dakota was No. 1 in job growth in 2012, with a 3.56 percent increase, in large part because of its booming energy sector. West Virginia ranked No. 50 with a decline of -1.83 percent.
McPheters says Wisconsin is suffering due to its heavy reliance on manufacturing jobs, which have been slow to come back nationally. He also noted that Wisconsin has not enjoyed much rebound in the construction sector.
“Here in Arizona we’ve been helped by tourism,” says McPheters. That state has added about 82,900 jobs over the past two years.
The job statistics have taken on political significance in Wisconsin following Gov. Scott Walker's well-publicized vow to add 250,000 jobs to the state total during his four years in office.
To track that progress, The Capital Times has created a new database that will be updated on a monthly basis as new figures are released.
In Wisconsin, the latest data is showing the state with 2,728,900 total jobs at the end of December 2012 compared to 2,719,800 in December 2011 — an increase of 9,100 positions or 0.33 percent.
But going back to when Walker took office in January 2011, Wisconsin is actually down about 15,900 jobs — a decline of 0.58 percent, which puts the state at No. 50 over that period. The state had 2,744,800 jobs in January 2011.
The numbers in the Cap Times database are from the BLS "current employment survey" or CES, a monthly survey of about 3 percent of employers in a state.
Those CES figures have been criticized by the Walker administration for not offering a true reflection of the economic condition in the state.
Rather, state officials have been citing the QCEW — quarterly census of employment and wages — which is data from 96 percent of employers, also produced by the BLS.
The most recent QCEW didn’t show Wisconsin faring a whole lot better, however. The state was No. 42 in job growth from June 2011 to June 2012 using that data.
Wisconsin Department of Revenue economist John Koskinen, who also has been critical of the CES figures, did not respond to a request for comment on the latest figures.
McPheters -- whose school maintains the Job Growth USA website -- says a solid argument can be made that the QCEW is more accurate but adds that most economists and government officials use the more timely CES when it comes to assessing the employment scene.
“The main thing the CES has going for it is the consistency of the method since all the states are done the same way,” he says. “So any comparison of the states is thought to be more accurate if they are also measured the same way.”
For comparison sake, Minnesota was No. 12, Iowa No. 29, Illinois No. 33 and Michigan No. 41 in percentage job change in 2012.
Actually, the Walker administration did embrace the CES figures in June 2011 when it showed Wisconsin adding 12,900 jobs, one of the best monthly performances of any state.
Gov. Scott Walker and several Republican legislators even gathered for a press conference, where one lawmaker wrongly claimed that Wisconsin had created half the new jobs in the entire country that month.
Since then, the administration has not made much mention of the monthly jobs numbers. Democrats, meanwhile, have used the numbers to their advantage, such as in this critical statement released earlier this year by Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.
One challenge for Wisconsin is getting its small businesses to pick up the hiring pace. Firms with fewer than 20 employees actually reduced their job numbers here in February, according to Intuit Payroll’s Small Business Index.
"Small retailers and service providers are continuing to suffer," says Susan Woodward, an economist working with Intuit, which produces payroll software. "The recovery in Wisconsin has been anemic and smaller business are feeling it."
Here are explanations of the industry sectors included:
Sum of 11 industry sectors. Jobs in the farming industry can fluctuate and therefore are excluded.
All nonfarm jobs except those in government.
Mining and Logging
Jobs in agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction.
Jobs in the construction of buildings or engineering products, including highways and utility systems.
Jobs in the mechanical, physical or chemical transformation of materials, substances or components into new products.
Manufacturing » Durable Goods
A subsector of Manufacturing, jobs that produce goods expected to last more than three years such as cars, furniture and construction materials.
Manufacturing » Non-Durable Goods
A subsector of Manufacturing, jobs that produce goods expected to last three years or less such as food and clothing.
Trade, Transportation and Utilities
Jobs involving the sale of merchandise, transportation of passengers and cargo and utilities service.
Trade, Transportation and Utilities » Wholesale Trade
A subsector of Trade, Transportation and Utilities, jobs that are involved in the intermediate step of the distribution of merchandise, selling to other businesses.
Trade, Transportation and Utilities » Retail Trade
A subsector of Trade, Transportation and Utilities, jobs that are involved in the final step of the distribution of merchandise, selling in small quantities to the general public.
Trade, Transportation and Utilities » Transportation and Utilities
A subsector of Trade, Transportation and Utilities, jobs that are involved in transportation of passengers and cargo or jobs in electric power, natural gas, steam supply, water supply and sewage removal.
Jobs in producing and distributing information and cultural products, providing the means to transmit or distribute these products as well as data or communications, and processing data.
Jobs involved in financial transactions or the sale, rent or lease of property.
Financial Activities » Real Estate and Rental and Leasing
A subsector of Financial Activities, jobs involved in the sale, rent or lease of real estate or other property.
Professional and Business Services
Jobs that provide services to clients.
Professional and Business Services » Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
A subsector of Professional and Business Services, jobs that specialize in performing professional, scientific or technical services for others.
Professional and Business Services » Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services
A subsector of Professional and Business Services, jobs that support the day-to-day activities of other organizations.
Education and Health Services
Jobs in establishments that provide instruction and training or health care and social assistance.
Education and Health Services » Educational Services
A subsector of Education and Health Services, jobs in establishments that provide instruction and training, either public or private.
Education and Health Services » Health Care and Social Assistance
A subsector of Education and Health Services, jobs in establishments that provide health care and social assistance for individuals.
Leisure and Hospitality
Jobs in providing services to meet cultural, entertainment and recreational interests, lodging or food and beverage for immediate consumption.
Leisure and Hospitality » Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
A subsector of Leisure and Hospitality, jobs in providing services to meet cultural, entertainment and recreational interests.
Leisure and Hospitality » Accommodation and Food Services
A subsector of Leisure and Hospitality, jobs in establishments that provide lodging or food-and-beverage service for immediate consumption.
Jobs in areas not covered by other sectors and not in public administration.
Jobs in establishments of federal, state and local governments that manage public programs and have ruling authority.
Government » Federal Government
A subsector of Government, jobs in the executive branch of the federal government.
Government » State Government
A subsector of Government, jobs in state governments.
Government » Local Government
A subsector of Government, jobs in local governments.