New Numbers, Familiar Pattern: Wisconsin Job Growth Continues to Lag National Average

Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 3:09 PM by

New employment figures show a familiar pattern: Wisconsin is adding private-sector jobs  at a rate considerably below the national average.

In light of that persistent pattern, it comes as no surprise that the latest economic outlook report released today by the Department of Revenue indicates that Wisconsin will fall far short of the Governor’s goal of adding 250,000 private sector jobs. The Department of Revenue projects just 134,000 new jobs from 2010 to 2014.

The number of private sector jobs in Wisconsin grew by 1.2% between September 2012 and September 2013, a little more than half the national pace of 2.1%. Wisconsin ranked 35th among the states over this period for the rate of growth in private sector jobs.

The new job creation figures come from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which economists consider the most reliable source for employment figures. The downside is that this data source is not as current as other, less reliable sources for employment figures.

In response to these new job figures, some policymakers have focused on the number of new jobs in Wisconsin, rather than Wisconsin’s disappointing rank among the states.  Reggie Newson, Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, said in this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that the new numbers “show Wisconsin’s private sector is creating jobs and helping our people get back to work.”

Wisconsin has in fact added jobs – 28,351 in the private sector between September 2012 and September 2013. But 49 out of 50 states added jobs over that period, so adding jobs in and of itself is not an indication that the policy choices implemented in Wisconsin have been more successful than those implemented in other states.

The Governor and Legislature have implemented new tax cuts, often aimed at the highest earners, raised taxes on working families, and made cuts to Wisconsin’s schools that are among the deepest in the country, all with the goal of boosting job creation in Wisconsin. If those policies are being effective, we would expect Wisconsin’s private sector job growth to be faster than growth in other states. Instead, Wisconsin’s year-over-year job growth has lagged the national average in 30 of the last 33 months.

Tamarine Cornelius

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