Another Look at Wisconsin’s Job Trends (and the Potential Political Implications)

Friday, March 16, 2012 at 11:49 PM by
Journal Sentinel Article Charts the WI, National and Midwest Job Trends
In case you haven’t seen today’s Journal Sentinel, it has a very good article by Craig Gilbert about the employment trends in Wisconsin – including some great graphs comparing job trends in our state with our neighbors and the national data.  It shows very dramatically how Wisconsin has trailed the rest of the nation in job creation over the last year, and also the rest of the upper Midwest. 

The article also examines the unemployment stats, and reiterates the paradoxical trend that we’ve touched on before – that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has been declining, even though employment doesn’t seem to be rebounding.  As the Journal Sentinel has pointed out on a few occasions, there are at least two factors contributing to that curious discrepancy.  One is that the job numbers and unemployment figures come from two different surveys, so survey methodology may be a factor.  Second, a significant part of the decline in the unemployment rate can be attributed to people dropping out of the job market. 
The article also includes some polling data and interesting commentary on the political implications of the employment trends.  The polling numbers show a strong subjective bias in how people view the economy.   The Marquette Law School poll conducted in February found that Republican were almost twice as likely as Democrats to say that Wisconsin has more jobs now than it did a year ago.  One might surmise that Republicans tend to be doing better or for other reasons are simply more optimistic about the economy.  However, when the same question was asked about the national economic trends, Democrats were more than twice as likely as Republicans to say that the number of jobs has increased in the last year. 
The bottom line is that facts matter, and the article does a nice job of laying out the facts in easily understood graphs and tables.  Yet the article also illustrates that the way people interpret the facts, and which ones they (we) put weight on, are heavily biased by our political inclinations.
Jon Peacock     
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