Wisconsin really is “Open for Business,” so where are all the jobs?

Give Scott Walker credit. He made his campaign slogan “Wisconsin is Open for Business” a reality. In an administration rife with incompetence, corruption, and political patronage, he got this right. According to data compiled by The New York Times from state and federal agencies, Wisconsin is now one of the top corporate welfare states in the nation, second in the Upper Midwest only to automobile bailout-heavy Michigan.

In spite of all these “job creating” incentives and programs, Forbes Magazine recently dropped Wisconsin from 40th to 42nd in the nation in their annual business rankings, making Wisconsin one of the worst states for business in the nation. Just what is going on? By the numbers, Wisconsin should be swimming in jobs. Based on the conservative theory that tax breaks for the job creators will…well…create jobs…

Let’s let the numbers tell the full story.

In total corporate incentives, Wisconsin ranks 14th overall in the nation. At least $1.53 billion went to corporate subsidies in the past year (the state cut $1 billion in public education funding in the 2011 – 2013 budget). These subsidies cost the average taxpayer $268 per year. Remember that number the next time you complain about a $30 per year property tax hike to fund public education. A full 10% of the state budget went to pay these corporate subsidies.

Of the 903 reported corporate grants listed in the Times report, 300 (nearly one-third) have come in 2011-2012 alone, during the Walker administration, primarily through the WEDC “Enterprise Zone Jobs Tax Credit.” In fact, seven of the top ten grant awards totaling over $270 million are 2011 or 2012 grants:

Corporate subsidies

Where has the $1.53 billion in “job creating” investment gone? Could this be the end of the myth surrounding corporate subsidies and incentives spurring job growth? Wisconsin under Scott Walker could be an example of an epic failure of this economic policy theory. Over the past two years, Wisconsin has been far behind the nation in employment recovery, and early 2013 is not looking any better.

Wisconsin employers will slow the pace of hiring in the first three months of 2013 even as the nationwide outlook for job creation is at the most promising levels since the recovery began nearly three years ago, a new survey says.

In Wisconsin, “employers are slightly less optimistic about their staffing plans,” said Manpower spokeswoman Mary Ann Lasky. Nationally, however, “optimism among U.S. hiring decision makers continues to improve,” according to the Milwaukee-based global staffing services company. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12/10/12)

The December 1, 2012 unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed Wisconsin with the most first time unemployment claims in the nation for the week ending December 1.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 24 were in Wisconsin (+5,876), Oregon (+2,328), Ohio (+2,252), Washington (+2,107), and Iowa (+1,262), while the largest decreases were in New Jersey (-23,966), California (-7,053), New York (-6,682), Texas (-6,425) and North Carolina (-2,609).

On December 12, 2012 Scott Walker appeared at a Waukesha County Business Alliance lunch and claimed to be “just under 100,000″  jobs created since he took office. It did not take long for Politifact to rate Walker’s claim “Pants on Fire.”

However, several within his own administration, including his primary spokesman, have said that is the wrong way to measure jobs — you can’t combine partial and full year data sets. As one aide said: It would be “misrepresenting the truth.”

By his administration’s own yardstick, his statement is false. We think it’s ridiculous to — after private admonitions — publicly present it this way. Pants on Fire.

Walker’s continued denial  of his policy failure is becoming sociopathic. In spite of his administration awarding literally billions of dollars to corporate subsidies, Wisconsin continues to lag behind in the recovery. The jobs crisis in Wisconsin is very real – and will not be cured with $10-$15/hour jobs, right-to-work legislation, or ideological social engineering.

Just how bad is it? Recent BLS data from measures the Walker Administration accepts (LAUS, QCEW) show that the money being given to corporations and “small business” to create jobs is not. The question remains…where is the money going?

First, the Quarterly Census (QCEW), Scott Walker’s favorite.

QCEW 1

Since 2010, there is a very moderate upward trend. The actual data show a non-existent job recovery in Wisconsin.

QCEW table

 

According to the latest verified QCEW data, Wisconsin has gained about 40,000 jobs January 2011-March 2012. The yellow highlights indicate the peak pre-recession employment in 2008 – 2,840,648. It is imperative to understand that Wisconsin still has a 200,000 job deficit just to get back to pre-recession employment levels, without accounting for population growth.

But this is December. The QCEW data is slow to be verified and released. The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) gives a more current measure based on unemployment data – which the Walker Administration has accepted as an accurate measure. The LAUS paints a similar picture:

LAUS graph

Again, the actual LAUS data shows a jobless recovery:

LAUS table 1

 

The yellow again highlights peak employment, pre-recession. The green highlights the last QCEW data entry in March 2012. According to the LAUS data, from January 2011 – October 2012, less than 20,000 jobs were created since Walker took office. The same data shows a jobs deficit of only about 100,000 to get to pre-recession levels.

While the baseline for each measure is different, the result is the same. Since taking office, Scott Walker has only created 20% of the jobs needed to just get back to pre-recession levels, not accounting for population growth.

The untold story of Walker’s tremendous job failure in relation to corporate welfare is the anemic labor force. Since Scott Walker took office, the total labor force has been virtually stagnant:

labor force graph

 

Once again, the actual data show an anemic labor force – not what a recovery looks like with over $1 billion a year in corporate subsidies being granted.

LAUS table 2

 

Note the high point of the labor force shortly after the recession took hold, in yellow – nearly 3.14 million people. When Scott Walker took office in January 2011, the number had dropped to nearly 3.07 million. As of October 2012, there are only 3.06 million people in the labor force. While the adult population has grown since April 2009, the labor force has dropped by over 70,000.

An 80% deficit in job growth, coupled with a decline of 70,000 people in the labor force. Is this the employment climate over $1.5 billion per year in corporate subsidies gets us?

The people of Wisconsin would be better served investing that $1.5 billion back into public schools. Because the question still remains, what has Wisconsin received for that $1.5 billion “investment?”

 

Current Job Drought is disastrous for economy, Wisconsin…and disproves Walker, GOP ideology

Wisconsin lost 11,700 private sector jobs in June. Including 1,500 jobs lost  in the Government Sector, the total is a dismal 13,200 – the most in 11 months. The unemployment rate is poised to rise from 6.8% to 7.0%:

The report clearly had an impact on the Walker Administration. Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Reggie Newson sent a letter to Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner John Galvin, blasting the agencies accounting methods – in essence, because they make the Walker Administration look bad:

“From the college graduate contemplating which state to launch a career to the business owner analyzing whether to expand at home or elsewhere, people across our state and nation are making major life decisions based on this information and, collectively, these decisions have an impact on our overall economy.”

Walker, his administration, and Conservative Republicans will never solve this unemployment or economic crisis. They will instead continue to distract; casting doubt about the survey methods previously heralded by Walker, when those numbers makes him look good. The facts, however, are this – Walker and conservatives nationwide are staking their economic policy about job creation on a lie. The result will be a deepening economic, and worse, unemployment crisis.

The economic myth that says “lower taxes on the job creators” will result in job creation is at the forefront of GOP campaigns this year. US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has the claim on the “jobs” page of his website:

Fix the Tax Code to Help Job Creators:

  • Increase American competitiveness to spur investment and create more American jobs by streamlining the tax code and lowering the tax rate for businesses and individuals including small business owners to no more than 25%.

The right-wing answer to our chronic jobs problem is to cut the top rate to 25%. Here’s the problem – tax rates for the wealthy and “job creators” have been decreasing for decades. This writer (and other’s) question to conservatives…Where the h*ll are the jobs? There can be no more doubt that this economic philosophy is a failure.

In a recent blog, Paul Krugman summarizes the fundamental issue:

Tax rates for the super-elite, the top .01%, have fallen in half since Mitt Romney’s father ran for president; or to put it differently, after tax income for this group has doubled due to policy alone. And bear in mind that the US economy flourished just fine under those 60-70 tax rates

A table from a 2007 study published in the “Journal of Economic Perspectives” shows the “job creators” benefitting from decreased progressivism in the tax code:

Noteworthy is while the top tax rates have been cut nearly in half, the tax rate for the middle 60-90% (the functional middle class) has INCREASED by 25-33%. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker made tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations his first priority as Governor. With all this additional income in the hands of the “job creators,” where are the jobs? Wisconsin in particular has had a trend of lowering tax rates on top-tier earners. The top marginal personal income tax rate from 1979 – 1985 was 10%. In 2009, the rate was 7.75% (Legislative Fiscal Bureau). This represents a combined (state and federal) 42.25% tax cut for the top-tier earners since 1979.

The current unemployment situation reflects that additional income in the hands of top-tier wage earners has done nothing to spur job creation – in fact, in Wisconsin, there is virtually zero growth in jobs. Evidenced by the recent BLS data, there are 15,200 fewer people employed from May 2011-May 2012; and only 8,000 more than May 2010:

State employment 2010-2012

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2010 2716.9 2714.5 2718.0 2725.3 2728.0 2723.0 2727.2 2731.5 2729.4 2740.9 2743.0 2740.8
2011 2744.8 2750.2 2754.5 2753.4 2751.5 2742.5 2738.8 2729.0 2734.0 2731.2 2719.4 2719.8
2012 2725.0 2735.1 2737.9 2733.7 2736.3

 The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.8% in May, and as reported above, to preliminary 7.0% in June:

State unemployment rate 2010-2012

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2010 9.2 9.1 9.0 8.8 8.6 8.4 8.3 8.2 8.1 8.0 7.9 7.8
2011 7.7 7.6 7.6 7.5 7.6 7.6 7.6 7.6 7.4 7.3 7.1 7.0
2012 6.9 6.9 6.8 6.7 6.8

The Walker Administration has pointed to the decline in the RATE as being the benchmark that his policy is  “working”, but there is data which disputes their claim. The “Labor Force” data points to a bigger problem – chronic long-term unemployment. People dropped from the system due to benefits expiring; or those who do not qualify for benefits are not reported in the unemployment rate. The Labor Force data for Wisconsin shows this is a real and persistent problem. Since 2010, the number of people in the eligible workforce has remained basically flat. There have been modest gains and losses, but no expected trend upwards:

State Labor Force 2010-2012

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2010 3096168 3099651 3099906 3096209 3089619 3082208 3075845 3071277 3068599 3067648 3067750 3068342
2011 3069656 3070780 3070312 3067707 3063898 3060386 3058088 3057357 3057366 3057248 3056534 3056367
2012 3054610 3059442 3064447 3069130 3075391

Wisconsin averaged a .9% annual increase in workforce population over the past two years (US Census Data), roughly 1%. A drop in labor force of over 14,000, when population increases would predict an increase of 60,000 means one thing – more people are dropping out of the workforce, and are not reported in the unemployment rate. Any job growth is not keeping up with the increase in workforce, and it leads to one conclusion.

The arrogance and ideology of Scott Walker and the conservative Republicans are preventing them from admitting to economic policy failure. The reduction of taxes for the “job creators” has been occurring for decades. High taxes on “job creators” is not our problem. As previously stated by economists worldwide, the deficit is not our primary problem – weak consumer demand and unemployment are our problems. Put people back to work and increase demand for goods among the middle class, and the economy will recover; deficits will decrease, the economy will recover.

A note to Walker and his allies. You can’t run government like a business. Managing a “micro” economy like a corporation (no matter how large) is no comparison to running a complex, interconnected, “macro” economy of a state or national government. Many people have trouble grasping the difference in complexity between even the largest business and a national economy.

The U.S. economy employs 120 million people, about 200 times as many as General Motors, the largest employer in the United States. Yet even this 200-to-1 ratio vastly understates the difference in complexity between the largest business organization and the national economy. A mathematician will tell us that the number of potential interactions among a large group of people is proportional to the square of their number. Without getting too mystical, it is likely that the U.S. economy is in some sense not hundreds but tens of thousands of times more complex than the biggest corporation. (Harvard Business Review, January/February 1996)

Stop fighting about the numbers and govern…but we won’t hold our breath. We’ll be looking for your replacements.

You can help keep independent, progressive journalism and research alive…Thank You and Solidarity!

 

 

Interview with BLS’ Richard Clayton disputes Walker claim that jobs “numbers were verified”

In a phone interview with Badger Democracy on Thursday May 31, Richard Clayton  (Chief of the Bureau of Labor Statistics division on State Employment Census Verification) clarified the information he supplied to officials with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Clayton is the BLS official who sent the “verification” email to Wisconsin DWD officials:

“I confirmed that the BLS has completed its process of reviewing and verifying the data. I did not verify or acknowledge any actual numbers or data to Wisconsin officials,” said Clayton.

Clayton added, “the Bureau will not comment or release any verified numbers until June 28, the scheduled release date. Until that time, the state can do whatever it wants with the numbers – that is their data. We have only confirmed that our verification process is complete. We supplied Wisconsin officials with no updated numbers as part of this process.”

This information from Clayton appears to contradict information publicized by the Walker Administration, even as late as the debate against Tom Barrett last night – when Scott Walker stated that the BLS had “verified the actual numbers.”

John Dipko, DWD spokesman, did not return emails requesting comment or clarification in light of this new information.

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