Politifact: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says the state’s jobs data is unreliable

On the accuracy of state jobs numbers.

Scott Walker on Thursday, December 15th, 2011 in a news release

The November jobs report, released Dec. 15, 2011by the state Department of Workforce Development, brought a mixture of disappointment and surprise.

The disappointment was the news that the state lost 11,700 jobs in November, the worst monthly decline in more than two years. The surprise was how Gov. Scott Walker’s response: He attacked the figures as unreliable.

Of course, this is the same monthly data Walker heralded in the first six months of his administration, when it showed job increases.

In his campaign for governor, Walker’s top promise was that the state would add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his four year term. (We track progress each month on the Walk-O-Meter. The December numbers are due to be released January 26, 2012.)

So, has Walker changed his view on the accuracy of the numbers?

Time to roll out the Flip-O-Meter and with it our requisite reminder: It does not measure whether any change in position is good politics or good policy, but simply whether a political figure has changed his or her position.

The numbers are compiled by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and released by the state agency. They are based on a survey of a sample of state employers and are routinely expressed as estimates. Each month, they are released as a preliminary number that is then "finalized" the next month.

The state jobs tally started out in an encouraging fashion for Walker, beginning with the report on January 2011 job growth, issued on March 9, 2011, that showed the state added a total of 11,300 jobs that month.

Walker took credit.

"The number one goal of my Administration is to get government out of the way so that the private sector can create 250,000 jobs by 2015," Walker said. "Adding over 10,000 private sector jobs in January shows that Wisconsin is on the right track toward fulfilling that important goal."

Manny Perez, then secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, said: "The numbers further reaffirm the importance of Gov. Walker’s approach to support policies that not only allow the private sector to create jobs in Wisconsin, but also accelerate job growth in our state."

Perez urged job seekers to polish their resumes so they wouldn’t be left out in the hiring.

"The economy is on the mend," he said.

So, the administration clearly viewed the numbers as reliable and meaningful.

Five months of job increases followed, concluding with a report for June, issued July 21, 2011, that showed another sharp increase, this time of 12,900 jobs. It was the largest single month increase in jobs since 2003.


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