Deeper Fact Check on Vukmir Statement Would Have Found It Misleading

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 2:34 PM by

Jobs matter to voters. That much everyone can agree on.

After that, things get a little fuzzier.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in an effort to make things less fuzzy, has been running a series evaluating the accuracy of statements made by elected officials and political candidates. This week the Journal Sentinel relied on Wisconsin Budget Project materials among others to determine whether there was any validity to state Senate candidate Leah Vukmir’s claim that “For the first time in history, Wisconsin has more government jobs than manufacturing jobs.” Is that true? Our answer could be summed up as “Yes, but.”

The Journal Sentinel article did a worthy job pointing out that after years of decline, the number of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin is now about the same as the number of government jobs. In other words, Wisconsin now has about as many people working in locations like foundries and assembly lines as in locations like classrooms and police stations. The Journal Sentinel therefore rated Ms. Vukmir’s claim as “Mostly True.”

The Journal Sentinel’s analysis, while accurate, could have gone farther. The article narrowly examined the veracity of the statement, while failing to mention that the statement is misleading.

We would have liked to see a mention in the article that Wisconsin ranked first in the nation last year for the percent of our jobs that are in manufacturing. What’s more, we’re ranked 38th in the nation in the number of public employees per capita, meaning that only 12 states have leaner public sectors. All this means that yes, Wisconsin has about the same number of manufacturing jobs as government jobs, but our ratio in 2009 was higher than every other state in the nation.  In fact, the U.S. on average has only half the number of manufacturing jobs as government jobs. You can read more on our Issue Brief on this topic, and on our past blog post.

Jobs matter, and Wisconsin should seek to have job growth in multiple industries. Nationally, the manufacturing industry has taken a significant hit in past years, which is especially painful for Wisconsin given that we have so many jobs in that area. Instead of vilifying jobs in one particular sector, let’s work to promote policies that can help Wisconsin families and communities back on the road to economic recovery.

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