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Wisconsin ranked 35th in job growth during Scott Walker's first term

Scott Walker touts the slogan "Wisconsin is Open for Business" at a news conference outside of the state Capitol on Nov. 3, 2010, a day after winning the gubernatorial election.

Wisconsin’s private-sector job growth during Gov. Scott Walker’s first term lagged all other Midwestern states and ranked 35th overall, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state had 131,515 more private-sector jobs in 2014 than in 2010, or 52.6 percent of the 250,000 jobs that Walker promised to create during his first term.

That represented a 5.9 percent increase, compared with 8.8 percent private-sector job growth nationwide.

The data also show Wisconsin had 9,463 more business establishments in 2014 than in 2010, or more than 500 short of Walker’s campaign pledge to create 10,000 businesses in his first term. The business growth rate of 6.4 percent ranked 10th nationally and outpaced the national average of 4.4 percent.

Average annual private-sector wages increased 10.4 percent, matching the national average and putting Wisconsin in a four-way tie for 21st among the states. The average private-sector annual wage in Wisconsin last year was $43,661. Nationally it was $51,295.

The figures represent the final and most complete picture of economic growth in the state over the past four years. They are based on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which accounts for 98 percent of all U.S. jobs and which Walker has called the gold standard for measuring his campaign promises.

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said job creation during Walker’s first term was the best of any Wisconsin gubernatorial term since 1995. She also said the nearly 34,000 private-sector jobs created in 2014 was the state’s best in a decade.

“The bottom line is Wisconsin’s economy is growing, more people are working, and we are moving in the right direction,” Patrick said.

Patrick also disputed using annual average figures to measure Walker’s business creation campaign promise. Using fourth quarter 2010 figures compared with fourth quarter 2014 figures, she noted there were 10,878 new businesses during his first term.

Democrats seized on the new numbers as evidence that the policies that Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature have pushed over the past four years aren’t working.

“Rather than working to put together a responsible budget that invests in small businesses, education, job training and our communities, Republicans continue to cause harm to our public schools and make devastating cuts to our state’s economic driver — our world-class university system,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said in a statement. “The people of Wisconsin are being sold out to special interests — and our economy and the pocketbooks of working people will continue to suffer as a result.”

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, highlighted Wisconsin’s unemployment rate at 4.4 percent, a point below the national rate and down from 8.1 percent when Walker took office, a labor participation rate that ranks among the top 10 states and the state’s continued improvement in national business climate rankings.

“We remain confident that Republican leadership is moving Wisconsin in the right direction,” Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said.

Scott Manley, vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s top business lobby, said “the really bright spot for our state” is Wisconsin’s manufacturing job growth. He noted the state created more than 31,000 manufacturing jobs over that period, or fifth most among the states. That represented a 7.3 percent increase, which ranks 23rd among the states.

“This is significant because manufacturing is the number one industry in Wisconsin in terms of GDP output, and manufacturing jobs are middle-class, family-supporting jobs,” Manley said.

Manley also expressed optimism about the direction of the state based on a recently completed semi-annual economic outlook survey of WMC CEOs. The survey found more than half plan to hire additional employees in the next six months, and 71 percent saying Wisconsin’s economy will see “good” to “moderate” economic growth.

Also, more than 70 percent predict wages will increase by 2.1 percent or more, he said.

“Many see wages likely to go up very soon based upon demand for workers that exceeds the pipeline of qualified applicants,” Manley said. “The higher competition for employees to fill job openings will push wages higher.”

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