Wisconsin added fewer than 12,000 private-sector jobs in 2016, badly lagging job gains in past years under Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure, new Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.
Private-sector wages also declined in the state last year by about $188 million, or 0.6 percent, according to the data, released Friday by the state Department of Workforce Development.
The numbers give a different picture of the state’s employment landscape than the one Walker and his supporters recently have cited: the state’s unemployment rate, which was 3.2 percent in April, its lowest mark since 2000.
Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said the jobs figures show Democratic proposals should be considered to boost the state’s economy.
“I don’t think anyone is surprised that Gov. Walker’s tax breaks for millionaires haven’t resulted in the 250,000 jobs he promised six years ago,” Shilling said in a statement.
Walker, running for governor in 2010, pledged to help create 250,000 jobs in his first term in office, which ended in 2015. He fell short by more than half.
Walker spokesman Tom Evenson responded by citing data showing Wisconsin added jobs at a strong pace in early 2017.
“We’ve seen a strong ramp up in private sector job growth so far in 2017,” Evenson said. “Our biggest challenge isn’t creating jobs, it’s finding people to fill them.”
Wisconsin added 11,590 private-sector jobs from December 2015 through December 2016, according to Workforce Development. It is based on new federal Quarterly Census of Employment & Wages, or QCEW, data that runs through the fourth quarter of 2016.
Walker has called those federal figures the “gold standard” of jobs numbers.
The private-sector job gains were far less than the between 29,723 and 38,077 private-sector jobs added in the state each year since Walker took office in 2011.
A poor showing in the state’s manufacturing sector fueled the weak job gains. Manufacturers lost 3,776 jobs in the 12-month period, according to the state.
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Total wages in manufacturing plunged during that period by more than $371 million, or 5.3 percent — making it also the worst sector in that category in percentage terms.
The state’s best-performing sector in that period, in terms of percentage job gains, was Natural Resources & Mining, which added 590 jobs for a 2 percent increase.
The top sector for wage growth was Professional & Business Services, which saw total wages go up more than $177 million, a 3.6 percent increase.
Earlier in the week, DWD said unemployment in April dropped all across Wisconsin, while dozens of counties and cities set records for the month.
Of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, 12 metropolitan areas and the state’s 32 largest cities, unemployment was lower last month compared to March, as well as compared to April of last year, according to preliminary statistics that are not seasonally adjusted from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wisconsin posted an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent in April, the lowest level since February 2000, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the bureau. Nationally, unemployment was at 4.4 percent in April.
DWD said 44 counties and half of the 32 cities hit historic unemployment lows for April last month.
Madison continued to hold the lowest jobless rate statewide in April at 2 percent, followed by Sun Prairie at 2.1 percent and Fitchburg at 2.2 percent. Madison’s rate was 2.7 percent in April 2016.
Dane County posted a 2.1 percent unemployment rate in April, the lowest in the state and a 0.7 percentage point decrease compared to April 2016.
The state’s labor force participation rate was 68.6 percent last month, higher than the national rate of 62.9 percent.