By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Wisconsin’s job creation ranking is on the rise, according to the latest quarterly data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Not enough to help the 217,000 Wisconsinites out of work last month. And certainly not enough for Gov. Scott Walker to placate the partisan bomb throwers and ease the political screeds of the minority Democrats.
But could a respectable jump in new jobs diminish the Democrats’ most potent argument against a Republican governor who has survived a recall election but has, so far, fallen well short of his ambitious jobs promises?
The Badger State moved up 11 spots in the rankings of state-by-state private sector job creation, in fourth quarter 2012, according to BLS’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data. The latest QCEW report, released Thursday, compares the last three months of 2012 to the same period in 2011.
On a percentage basis, Wisconsin ranked 33rd in job creation, up from 44th in the previous quarter – outworking neighbor Illinois. Wisconsin’s economy added 32,282 private sector jobs quarter over quarter, ranking it 21st in total jobs created.
“According to actual jobs data, Wisconsin’s economy is growing and employment opportunities are steadily improving under Governor Walker’s leadership,” Reggie Newson, secretary of the state Department of Workforce Development said in a statement.
Steady is the word. At 1.18 percent growth over the period, Wisconsin’s total nonfarm job growth wasn’t exactly robust, particularly compared to the leading job-producing states. The top 5 are:
1. North Dakota, 6.05 percent (24,000 jobs)
2. Utah, 3.74 percent, (44,973 jobs)
3. California 3.26, (480,674 jobs)
4. Texas, 3.25 percent, (344,773 jobs)
5. Colorado, 2.73 percent, (61,452 jobs)
Wisconsin, too, trailed every Midwest state but Illinois in percentage growth over the period. Michigan outpaced the pack in total job growth, at 1.9 percent, ranking 15th. Indiana posted a 1.8 percent increase in job growth in the fourth quarter, ranking it 19th, and Minnesota ranked 22nd, at 1.58 percent.
Wisconsin also lagged behind the U.S. job growth rate of 1.85 percent.
Working the numbers
Democrats worked the latest employment data, noting that Wisconsin ranks 38th in overall job creation since Walker took office. Actually the span is from December 2010 to December 2012, which technically includes one month before Walker began his term.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, who has at every turn in recent months lambasted the governor for the state’s 44th place showing, kept the political hammer down, despite the improving economic picture.
“While I’m pleased to see a slight uptick in our job rankings, Wisconsin still has a long way to go – and the middle is hardly within sight. We should be focused on leading, not bringing up the rear,” Barca said in a statement.
“The fact remains that under Gov. Walker, Wisconsin ranks 38th in the country in job growth – dead last in the Midwest (over the two-year period). And despite clear evidence that the Republican plan hasn’t worked well economically for Wisconsin, Gov. Walker’s budget doubles down on bad economic policy,” Barca added.
John Dipko, spokesman for Workforce Development, said he found it interesting that Barca and the Democrats, who have been so fixated on the 44th ranking from the last quarterly report, didn’t mention the state’s 11-spot rise in fourth quarter 2012.
The bottom line, Dipko said, is Wisconsin’s economy is growing and job creation is happening – to the tune of some 62,000 jobs between December 2010 and December 2012.
Newson said the improving jobs numbers are a significant turnaround from the job hemorrhaging of the Great Recession.
“After losing 134,000 private sector jobs in the four years prior to (Walker’s) administration, it is good news for Wisconsin that our friends and neighbors are getting back to work,” the secretary said.
DWD has insisted that it was just a matter of time before the jobs numbers caught up with the other measures of economic growth. The state Department of Revenue reported fiscal 2013 revenue collections climbed 4.4 percent through May, and first-time and continuing unemployment claims continue to fall.
Just as important, wages grew by 4.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to BLS.
“We believe the governor’s pro-jobs agenda is working, but we know there is more work to be done,” Dipko said.
Time will tell. By the most recent data, Walker is about 188,000 jobs shy of the 250,000 target in four years he continues to stand by. Earlier this month, DWD released BLS data that estimated Wisconsin’s economy added 12,700 private sector jobs in May. But those monthly, preliminary figures have been shown to be volatile at best.
Still, if the revised numbers come in close to those gains and can be sustained this summer, job growth really may be catching up with the other key economic indicators.
BLS anticipates releasing first quarter 2013 jobs numbers in about six months.
Contact M.D. Kittle at email@example.com