By Ryan Ekvall and M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Wisconsin’s job picture brightened last month, and it turns out the down numbers in April weren’t as bad as originally reported, according to the latest data from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Preliminary figures show Wisconsin gained 2,600 nonfarm wage and salary jobs in May, including 900 new private-sector jobs. April’s revised figures show an uptick of 1,700 nonfarm wage and salary jobs, including 1,900 more in the private sector than the preliminary numbers from last month.
“After years of job loss prior to taking office, Governor (Scott) Walker has helped put Wisconsin back on a path to prosperity,” Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said in a statement. “The Governor will continue to concentrate on encouraging private sector economic growth and workforce training with the ultimate goal of creating jobs.”
Still, April’s revised data show a decline in the work force of about 4,500 jobs — better than the originally reported 6,200 jobs lost, but a decline nonetheless.
Through May, however, Wisconsin’s economy added 12,900 private-sector jobs, according to the latest DWD figures.
Dennis Winters, chief labor economist for DWD, said manufacturing and the health-care sector continue to drive Wisconsin’s slow recovery.
An increase in the labor force, those working and actively seeking work, grew 6,300 from April to May leading to a .1 percent increase in unemployment — from 6.7 percent to 6.8 percent. The national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent.
Manufacturing and local governments led job growth in May. Manufacturing added 3,900 jobs while local governments added 3,800 jobs. Construction and state government both contracted last month by 3,300 and 1,900 jobs, respectively.
“I don’t think it’s surprising,” said Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend. “We all know talking to our employers that they are very bullish on Wisconsin right now. Unless something bad happens on the national or international level, things will continue to look up. Governor Walker winning his recall will have a strong reassuring effect on Wisconsin business.”
The uptick in government jobs did surprise economists such as Winters, however. Wisconsin has seen a continued decline in government jobs.
The data does need to be taken in context. Walker and his Democratic rival, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, certainly made the jobs numbers a point of contention in the state’s historic recall campaign.
“This information is inaccurate and cannot be trusted,” said DWD Secretary Reggie Newson of the monthly jobs totals in May. The data is collected via a survey of 3 percent of Wisconsin businesses and has varied by thousands of jobs after revision.
More reliable — Bureau of Labor Statistics have said and the Walker administration has concurred — are the quarterly BLS employment figures, which include some 96 percent of employers.