Negative Numbers for Wisconsin Metro Areas in New Jobs Analysis

Friday, May 18, 2012 at 6:00 PM by

Madison and Milwaukee Areas Have Second and Third Largest Job Losses Nationally

Recently-released figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) contain some additional worrisome news for Wisconsin – and specifically for our state’s two largest metropolitan areas. The Business Journal analyzed the change in jobs from March 2011 to March 2012 for the nation’s 100 largest metro areas and found that both of the Wisconsin areas on that list are near the very top in terms of job losses.

Their analysis found that the Madison area had the second highest job loss over that 12-month period (-4,600 total non-farm jobs) and the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis area was third largest at -4,300 jobs. Measured in percentage terms, Madison was 98th out of 100 on job creation (-1.34%), and the Milwaukee-Waukesha area was 95th (-0.54%).

The metro areas in question account for about 42% of all Wisconsin jobs, and they extend far beyond those cities. For example, the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis area includes Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties, as well as all of Milwaukee County.

Making the data more worrisome (from a Wisconsin perspective) is the fact that only 13 of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas lost jobs during that period. In fact, 80 of the 100 areas gained 1,000 jobs or more. Augusta Georgia was the only metro area to surpass the Madison area’s job loss over that period.

I’m not sure how accurate the BLS figures are for metro areas. If only one Wisconsin area were near the bottom in employment change, I wouldn’t have paid much attention. But the fact that both of the Wisconsin metro areas on the list are in contention for the nation’s largest job losses and are so far below the average job growth suggests that the drops aren’t statistical anomalies.

The metro figures come from broader survey data that the Governor now says we shouldn’t use. Unfortunately, we can’t contrast these figures with the dataset he now prefers because those figures are only available for other parts of the country through September of last year. But as we noted yesterday, no matter which data set one uses, the state has made little progress toward erasing the job losses that occurred during the recession.

Let’s hope that we can soon move beyond the debate about how to count jobs and can move to the development of a bipartisan agenda that invests in Wisconsin workers and will get our economy back on track. For some ideas on that score, see Andy Feldman’s recent BadgerStat Blog post.

Jon Peacock

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