Whatever Yardstick You Use, Wisconsin Remains Stuck in Neutral on Jobs

Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 6:09 PM by

In recent weeks, much has been made of Governor Walker’s rejection of the traditionally used jobs figures provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), choosing to focus instead on an alternative counting method. A new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project, “Stuck in Neutral,” shows that whatever batch of data one relies on, Wisconsin’s economic recovery is lagging the rest of the country. There are not enough jobs being created in the state to keep up with population growth, let alone regain what was lost during the recession.

The issue brief is accompanied by a fact sheet that lays out the different sets of numbers, leaving the interpretation to the reader.

A second issue brief released today by the Wisconsin Budget Project “A Broader Measure of Economic Performance in the States,” looks at a measure of economic growth known as the “coincident index,” updated each month by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The “Philly Fed” uses a broader set of indicators to calculate its index. 

Their figures reveal that Wisconsin’s growth is lagging behind the national average, and is far behind that of other states in our region. The Federal Reserve figures show that since the new state budget took effect last July, Wisconsin’s economic improvement has been one-tenth or less of the growth in Illinois, Iowa and Michigan.

The Walker administration’s strategy of stoking private sector job growth through corporate tax breaks does not appear to be succeeding. The Budget Project’s analysis found that more than three-fourths of the tax cuts implemented recently are not tied to any job creation requirement. In other words, a company gets to take advantage of the breaks regardless of whether they actually add any new jobs.

Instead of relying on a failed strategy of tax cuts for corporations, Wisconsin should bolster its investments in the things we know provide a lift to the economy and create jobs—things like health care, transportation, education, and public safety. That’s a more realistic path to recovery.

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