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Private-sector job growth, January 2014

Despite an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent, below the national rate of 6.6 percent, Wisconsin still lags the rest of the Midwest in job growth over the past three years.

Wisconsin stands ninth out of 10 Midwestern states in private sector job growth since Gov. Scott Walker took office in January, 2011, according to the most recent Current Employment Statistics (CES) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The CES, a timely but estimated number of jobs in each state, was widely followed each month in Wisconsin after Walker had vowed during the 2010 campaign that his policies of cutting taxes and being more business friendly would help create 250,000 new private sector jobs in his first term.

Net job growth is generally considered the strongest measure of a state economy since it reflects how many jobs are both created and lost over a specific period of time.

But as the months dragged on and it became clear Walker would not come close to hitting the jobs target, coverage of the issue has waned. There is no mention of the 250,000 number by the Walker camp these days, with the latest TV spots touting a figure of 100,000 new jobs created.

Walker Administration officials instead have focused on statistics where Wisconsin is doing well, including a one-year job growth percentage higher than the 50-state average and a No. 5 ranking nationally in raw numbers of manufacturing jobs created.

Also, Wisconsin employers are expected to add jobs at a brisk pace in the second quarter of 2014, according to the most recent estimates from Manpower Inc., the national temporary services agency based in Milwaukee.

Still, the latest estimates from the BLS show Wisconsin added just 104,100 private sector jobs since Walker took office in January, 2011. That works out to a 4.4 percent increase in the number of jobs, 32nd among all states over the three-year period.

Among the 10 states considered part of the Midwest by the BLS, however, only Illinois, with a 3.3 percent job growth (162,000 jobs added) has a lower percentage increase than Wisconsin over the period.

Fueled by an oil and natural gas boom, North Dakota leads both the Midwest and the nation as a whole in job growth since January 2011 with a 19.4 percent increase, adding 65,800 new private sector jobs.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin was 32nd among states in total job growth according to the Census of Employment and Wages released Wednesday. Those figures are based on actual hard job counts rather than an estimate but lag by several months.

From September 2012 through September 2013, the period covered in the most recent CEW, Wisconsin was creating jobs at a 1.1 percent annual rate vs. 1.7 percent for the nation as a whole.

According to the CEW, Wisconsin was trailing all neighboring states in job growth except for Illinois, which saw a 0.7 percent increase in jobs over the period.

In terms of just private sector jobs, Wisconsin added 28,351 for the one-year period, a gain of 1.2 percent vs. 2.0 for the nation as a whole. That ranked the state 35th.

One bit of good news in the CES was that Dane County had the second largest weekly wage increase in the nation over the September 2012 through September 2013 period, with a 9.3 percent or $78 increase. Only San Mateo, California had a larger percentage gain.

The state Department of Workforce Development noted the wage gains in a statement released Wednesday. It also cheered Wisconsin's 11th place ranking in the number of construction jobs gained from September 2012 through September 2013.

"Whether it's actual jobs data, state revenue collections or new business formation, all economic indicators show Wisconsin's private sector is creating jobs and helping our people get back to work," said DWD secretary Reggie Newson in a statement.

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