Another day, another round of job numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and more arguing over whether Gov. Scott Walker has Wisconsin heading in the right direction.
This time it's a state-by-state comparison of job growth over the last 12 months -- and Wisconsin is dead last among the 50 states.
The BLS data released Tuesday showed Wisconsin with 12,500 fewer jobs in January 2012 compared to January 2011.
Five other states lost jobs over the period but none came close to losing them like Wisconsin: Missouri was down 4,100 jobs; Mississippi 2,900; Alabama 1,900; Rhode Island 1,300 and Alaska 900.
All of Wisconsin’s neighboring states added jobs over the past 12 months ago, including Michigan, up 61,700 largely on the auto industry rebound. Illinois is up 29,200, Minnesota is up 35,800 and Iowa is up 9,200.
Texas led the nation in job growth over the past 12 months, with 258,200 more jobs than a year ago. New York is up 139,300, followed by California up 126,100.
The new report takes some of the steam out of last week's BLS report showing Wisconsin adding 15,700 new private-sector jobs in January 2012, the single best monthly performance since Walker took office. The state also lost another 3,200 government jobs for a net gain of 12,500.
Walker and his Republican supporters cheered those numbers, saying they show the state is turning the corner on job growth after losing 150,000 jobs since the recession began in December 2008. Here is a take by Waukesha blogger James Widgerson giving that side of the argument.
But Tuesday’s state-by-state numbers prompted more criticism from Democrats.
“In the wake of yet another dismal report on jobs for Wisconsin, I would hope my Republican Assembly colleagues would finally work to pass some of the many bipartisan jobs bills that have languished for more than a year,” said Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, in a statement. “Instead, the GOP continues to ignore economic issues in favor of continuing its war on women and its efforts to dismantle public education. It’s hard to imagine how reducing access to health care and diverting funds from public schools is a recipe for economic success.”
Assembly minority leader Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, also came out with a statement rapping Republicans and the administration for the weak jobs numbers.
"While the nation has added jobs every month for 17 straight months and neighboring states all posted job gains the past year, Wisconsin has fallen far behind under Gov. Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature," Barca said.
That drew a quick response from Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, who accused Barca of "distorting the jobs picture."
"Representative Barca needs to get beyond his shortsighted view and look at the big picture, starting with the loss of nearly 150,000 jobs during the three years before Governor Walker took office. In 2011, Governor Walker and his partners in the Legislature took action to stabilize our state’s economy and set the stage for job growth," said Newson in a statement.
Newson goes on to note that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate of 6.9 percent is the lowest since 2008 and some 11,700 more Wisconsinites were employed over the past year. He adds that the unemployment rate, the drop in new unemployment insurance claims and the increase in state sales and withholding tax collections all suggest future economic growth.
Meanwhile, state officials in the past have criticized the Bureau of Labor Statistics for making significant changes to its jobs estimates, saying the preliminary figures have painted a misleading picture of the employment scene.
The February job numbers by state are due out March 22, offering yet another glimpse of where Wisconsin might be headed.