Spring Swoon Drops U.S. Jobs Growth to the Rate Walker Extols
The new U.S. jobs numbers that are causing so much angst provide an interesting and important perspective on the debate about jobs growth in Wisconsin. Analyzing the figures that Governor Walker says we should be using, it turns out that the growth rate Wisconsin achieved last year (when most other states were doing considerably better) is the same as the percentage increase nationally during the “spring swoon.”
In other words, let’s put aside the arguments about which set of Wisconsin numbers to use, and assume the validity of the 2011 jobs numbers that the Governor’s ads point to with such pride. If we compare those figures with the latest national numbers during the worrisome economic deceleration, here’s what we find:
- The national economy added an average of just 96,000 jobs per month from March through May, compared to 267,000 per month in the first two months of 2012, and 153,000 per month in 2011.
- The increase of 96,000 per month amounts to an average monthly increase of 0.07 percent (i.e., less than one-tenth of one percent), and it’s barely enough to offset population growth.
- The jobs survey now endorsed by the Walker Administration indicates that Wisconsin gained 23,608 jobs in 2011, an increase of 0.86 percent for the year.
- That was an average 1,967 jobs per month, which amounts to a growth rate of 0.07 percent per month – almost exactly the same as the national rate that is causing so much concern.
Keep in mind that Wisconsin achieved the very lethargic growth rate of 0.07 percent per month at a time when the national rate of employment growth was 60 percent higher than what it has averaged over the past three months (153,300 non-farm jobs per month in 2011 vs. 96,000 this spring).
As a technical note, remember that the May 2012 U.S. job numbers are still preliminary, and the same can be said for the fourth quarter 2011 figures the state is using. However, it seems unlikely that adjustments to those figures will change the monthly averages by enough to alter the conclusion that Wisconsin’s 2011 growth rate was, at best, very anemic.
Of course, the more important questions are whether the national economy will recover from the spring swoon (as it did after similar doldrums in 2010 and 2011) and what should be done to ensure that it recovers. Should federal and state policymakers follow the European policies of austerity, which seem to have dug that continent into a deeper economic and fiscal hole, or should American policymakers invest to stimulate the economy?
Last year Governor Walker chose the path of austerity. The 2011 Wisconsin job growth numbers, which he is taking credit for, shed some light on that path. At a time when most of the nation was doing considerably better, Wisconsin managed to achieve the lethargic growth rate that now is such a concern as we contemplate the national economy.