Fact: More Real Wisconsinites are Working at Real Jobs

By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute

O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
– Henry V, Act IV, Scene III

Wisconsin, you’re among workers.

According to the latest Labor Department statistics, Wisconsin added 9,500 net jobs last month using seasonally adjusted numbers. In the private sector, 12,900 jobs were created, the largest one-month gain since September 2003, the first year of former Governor Jim Doyle’s administration.

Manufacturing continued seeing job growth with 800 more jobs added in June.. That’s 14,100 new manufacturing jobs created this year.

Listening to some of Governor Scott Walker’s critics you would think the news is somehow bad news for the governor, or that these numbers from the federal Department of Labor are somehow made up.

Democratic State Representative Marc Pocan even wrote on Twitter, “WI GOP doesn’t understand job numbers, but they run our state. Oh my.” Perhaps Walker’s critics should take a moment to try to understand the jobs numbers themselves.

Let’s start with the supposed bad news. Liberal bloggers such as former Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton aide Jim Rosenberg are noting that the unemployment rate went up .2% in June. While correct, the commentary misses the good news significance of the statistic. Wisconsin’s workforce is growing again, adding 15,100 new job seekers. That is how the number of employed can actually rise at the same time as the unemployment rate.

Unemployment is figured using the number of Wisconsin residents who are available for work and actively seeking jobs. The increase in active job seekers means the labor pool believes Wisconsin is open for business again.

Wisconsin’s employers share that optimism. A survey WMC released earlier this month showed 88 percent of Wisconsin CEOs said the state is on the right track, and more than 50 percent said they would be creating jobs.

More importantly, the unemployment rate is still below the national rate of 9.2%, the same rate that unemployment peaked at under Walker’s predecessor.

The rate is virtually unchanged since Governor Jim Doyle left office in January. Since then Wisconsin has added 39,300 private sector jobs, so the unmoving unemployment rate indicates the degree of difficulty the economy was in when Walker took office.

Meanwhile, Bill Christofferson, a former Democratic political consultant, calls the jobs numbers “bogus” and says they “don’t add up.” “Half of the new jobs in the country were created in Wisconsin? If that sounds too good to be true — well, you know.”

While other detractors went so far as to claim Wisconsin’s job increases were merely because of Milwaukee’s annual Summerfest, Christofferson’s complaint was that a number of other states also had significant job growth in June despite the poor national numbers.

So, if they had even larger job growth, how is it possible Wisconsin created half the nation’s new jobs?

Let’s walk Christofferson through some math and English lessons he may have missed in school.

Christofferson points out that Massachusetts created 10,400 new jobs, more than half of the new jobs created nationally. Minnesota created 13,200 jobs, or 73% of the jobs created nationally. California added 28,800 jobs in June, or 160% of the jobs created nationally.

How can all of these be true?

What Christofferson neglects to mention is that the national number is the net aggregate of all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Some states did well and other states continued to lose jobs.

However, when we compare numbers, we would say Wisconsin created more than half the jobs created nationally. For example we could also say Wisconsin has a little over 15% of California’s population. It doesn’t mean 15% of California is living in Wisconsin (although it would explain Madison). It just means that Wisconsin has a population of 5,686,986 and California has a population of 37,253,956.

If Christofferson has a problem with the numbers and language being used to describe Wisconsin’s and Massachusetts’ job growth, my suggestion is that he takes it up with Strunk and White rather than Governor Deval Patrick and Governor Scott Walker.

In other attempt to be a wet blanket on the jobs numbers, Christofferson quotes Michael Rosen, an economics professor at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, “Put the Walker jobs victory dance in perspective. Several states (Texas (+32,000), California (+28,800), Michigan (+18,000), and Minnesota (+13,200) had more job growth — and Texas was responsible for almost 200% of net job growth in June.”

Okay, let’s put them into perspective. As we mentioned before, California has a population many times the size of Wisconsin’s, yet they only created 28,800 jobs and their employment rate went up to 11.8%. Texas is the next biggest state with a population of 25,145,561, again much larger than Wisconsin’s. Yet Texas only created 32,000 jobs (better than California) and their unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2%.

Minnesota has a population slightly smaller than Wisconsin, and a Republican legislature there just fought the Democratic Governor to a standstill, causing the state government to shut down, to prevent the governor from raising taxes. I don’t believe Christofferson or Rosen want that performance repeated here.

Wisconsin’s population is 58% of the size of Michigan’s population, so Wisconsin’s job growth to population compared to Michigan’s is not that far off, especially when you consider that Michigan had a lot more room for economic improvement.

What Rosen and Christofferson did show us is that there are dangers in apples to oranges comparisons for political advantage. We should be wary when partisans attack good news with bad intentions.

The fact of the matter is that the economic doom and gloom promised by Democrats’ and special interest groups who opposed Governor Walker and the Republicans’ legislative agenda has not materialized.

The truth is that more Wisconsinites are working now and more job creators here are optimistic about the future.

Those are facts even Pocan and Christofferson can understand.