The day after Scott Walker won the recall election, Badger Democracy received two Excel Spreadsheets from the Department of Workforce Development. The data were the subject of an open records request submitted on May 30; after the Walker campaign insisted the jobs numbers they “early released” had been approved by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job creation was a critical talking point for the Walker media campaign. Statewide press heralded the new jobs number – without digging deeper into what was released by Scott Walker for purely political reasons. From the Green Bay Press Gazette, May 31, 2012:
“Walker’s Department of Workforce Development provided an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday from the bureau’s staff that shows it gave final approval to the numbers. The email did not say what number the bureau approved, but Workforce Development spokesman John Dipko said it was 23,608, which would be dramatically better job creation in the state than figures based on a different survey of businesses.”
The “different survey,” according to BLS head of QCEW State Census Data Richard Clayton, is not a survey at all. It is a mandatory census completed by all employers in the state. While the survey takes six months to verify, thus taking more time to release, it is more accurate. When taken together with wage information, it gives a good overall picture of the employment situation in a state. The information received by Badger Democracy is a clear indication that the data sent to BLS, compared with information posted on the state “WORKnet” website, and the Walker Campaign press releases do not add up or compare accurately with each other. The Walker rush to politicize jobs data has led to inaccurate and misleading information – if not an outright lie.
It is important to acknowledge that in a recent interview with Richard Clayton at BLS, he clarified BLS only verified their data review was complete – they did not verify data posted on the state website, nor did they supply Wisconsin officials with ANY updated data.
The first spreadsheet obtained is the “Quarter 4 2011 Administrative Data” showing all employees for all categories by month. This is the data submitted to the US BLS by WI DWD. What the Walker Administration failed to include in their press releases is the fact that October, November, and December saw job losses statewide:
|UI administrative data|
The data shows a loss of 10,000 jobs from October 2011 – December 2011. When inserted into a Comparative 2010-2011 Table, it is clear the Quarter 4 losses erased early year gains:
The numbers Wisconsin DWD sent to US BLS shows an anemic gain of 19,248 jobs in 2011 – not the 23,000+ (later revised to 26,000+) the Walker Administration/Campaign heralded.
Where did the 23,000+ jobs number come from? The second Excel Spreadsheet obtained supplies that answer – but raises bigger questions. The “QCEW 104 vs UI 114 by county” spreadsheet breaks down the statewide jobs data by county. This is the exact spreadsheet submitted to BLS by the Wisconsin DWD. The net change from December 2010 – December 2011 in the “Year to Year (level)” column amounts to 23,321 – where the 23,000+ number is derived. The discrepancy in data is evident – and examination of one row shows the rush to release this unverified data has led to false and misleading information being released early for political purposes.
The “Unknown County” row submitted to BLS (and copied here) shows it is the largest sector of job increases in the state. In fact, of note is the large jump from 2010-2011, accounting for most of the job increases in the state:
|QCEW (Worknet)||UI Admin Data (unreleased)||Year-to-Year (level)||Year-to-year (%)|
|UNKNOWN COUNTY||Total All Ind||Aggregate of all types||38051||38292||38640||50031||51405||51342||+11980||+13113||+12702||+31.5%||+34.2%||+32.9%|
The DWD posted their numbers “early” for the QCEW – after claiming verification from the BLS. Why then would the data posted on the state’s own website not comply with the data they sent to BLS? Remember, the BLS has not verified ANY data or revised numbers. Here is the “Unknown County from the WORKnet website, Quarter 4 2011 excerpt:
|Area||Year||Period||NAICS||Industry||Ownership||October 11||November 11||December 11|
|UNKNOWN COUNTY||2011||4th quarter||0||Total All Ind||Aggregate of all types||47629||48810||48601|
A significant difference of approximately 2,500 fewer jobs per month than reported to the BLS – in the area showing the largest job growth statewide in numbers and percentages. If any of these numbers in “Unknown County” are to be accepted; it must be pointed out that the percentage increases and numbers reported by DWD for 2011 are unprecedented – going back to 2007 Quarterly Reports.
According to BLS Chief Richard Clayton, “Unknown County” is classified under two circumstances. First, a small number being due to new businesses that simply fail to check the “County” box on the QCEW Census. Eventually, the system will catch up to them, and they will be classified in the correct county. The second, larger portion are companies with multiple locations in Wisconsin, or out-of-state based employers with employees working in Wisconsin. The employers do not identify a single location, or any location as their base of business in Wisconsin.
State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), expresses concern over the latter scenario. She states that her district, and other borderline areas of the state, are seeing more growth in jobs created by out-of-state employers. The large increase in “unknown county” could be evidence of more non-Wisconsin businesses employing Wisconsin residents.
The “Unknown County” classification is not the only aberration in data. Given that some of those “Unknown County” jobs may have found a county classification in recent weeks, the numbers should still correspond – as no updated numbers get sent from BLS. The state is merely posting its own internal data.
As noted in the first table above, the total non-farm employment in December 2011 from data sent to BLS is 2,689,262. From the Wisconsin WORKnet data, taken from the Quarter 4 County data, the total is 2,689,549.
While this may seem a small difference, consider this…Scott Walker claimed he created 23,608 jobs in 2011. Based on the source of QCEW data, which he is citing, that number is only between 19,248 and 19,535. An overstatement of 16-20%. Those numbers are only accurate if the inconsistent data from the state’s own reporting is accurate. That is why this early data release was so misleading and misstated – nothing has been verified. As Richard Clayton put it, “you’ll find out on June 28, when the Walker Administration does, what the actual verified numbers we are releasing say.”
Professor Laura Dresser (C.O.W.S.) puts things into perspective. Based on accepting Scott Walker’s anemic job growth of 19,000+ jobs; we are still over 200,000 jobs behind getting back to 2007 levels of employment. In addition, recently released wage data indicates that real wages in Wisconsin declined 5% from 2010-2011. The nationwide average was a 1.1% increase for the same period. Wisconsin growth under Scott Walker has been virtually non-existent. Dresser points out that either the small number of jobs created are low wage jobs, or employers are inflating the numbers of jobs reported in the census.
Declining wages and stagnant job growth. Jobs numbers released early and unverified for political propaganda. Documentation of the numbers released only after the election, showing disputed information from what is reported internally and to the US Government.
The persistent, chronic unemployment problem is real; and is being politicized and ignored. Is this what Scott Walker and his supporters stand for?