Wisconsin Ranks Last in Economic Index for August through October

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 3:13 AM by

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia tracks economic indicators for each state on a monthly basis and prepares a map comparing the states’ economic trends over the last three months. Let’s hope the next map, likely to come out later this week, has better news for Wisconsin than the last one – when the Badger State had the worst rating among all 50 states.

The ratings are based on a measure they have developed called the coincident index, which combines four state-level indicators: nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate, and wage and salary disbursements. The map for the 3-month period August through October singles out Wisconsin as the lone state highlighted in red, which represents the lowest category. Our state practically jumps off the page because it’s in such marked contrast to surrounding states.

You can find all of the maps that the Philadelphia Fed has prepared over the last 7 years on their website.  One can also download all of the coincident indexes for each state since 1979.  I settled for the last four months, to see how Wisconsin compares to other states since the start of the current fiscal year.  Wisconsin climbs to 49th when one calculates the change in the index since the beginning of July, barely edging ahead of Indiana.  I’ll update that analysis after the November numbers are added.

I happen to think that politicians (including governors, presidents and legislators) get too much credit or blame for economic trends. However, if you are going to try to judge state policymakers based on the economic indicators in their state, it should be done by comparing the state’s economic trends with those elsewhere, not by analyzing the data in isolation from the rest of the nation or region.  Because the coincident index provides a comparative measure, it seems to be a useful and very interesting tool for monitoring how Wisconsin is doing economically.

Jon Peacock

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