Editor's note: This story was corrected from an earlier version that contained an inaccurate description of the specific BLS numbers cited by MacIver.
While the conservative MacIver Institute is out with a statistically flawed claim that Gov. Scott Walker is more than halfway to reaching his 250,000 new jobs pledge, revisions to federal employment numbers do show a dramatic improvement in Wisconsin.
MacIver in a press release this week claimed that Wisconsin has added over 137,000 new private sector jobs since Walker took office in January 2011. But economists say that figure was wrongly derived by comparing two separate economic reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The CEW or Census of Employment and Wages figures cited by MacIver are from January 2011 and September 2012, showing a difference of 137,372. But economists say it's inaccurate to compare two different months because the figures are not seasonally adjusted.
In this case, a September CEW employment figure would also include summer seasonal jobs in construction and tourism.
“No legitimate analysis of job growth can be done by comparing two different months of the CEW,” says Laura Dresser, an economist at UW-Madison’s liberal Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS). "You could compare January to January or September to September but not January to September."
Comparing September 2010 to September 2012 using the CEW numbers cited by MacIver shows Wisconsin with 61,940 more private sector jobs over that two-year period.
State economist John Koskinen of the Department of Revenue also told MacIver that its reading of the numbers was skewed. But he did note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been badly underestimating the state’s employment picture.
To that end, Wisconsin added 12,000 jobs in February, with estimates of jobs added in January revised upward by 9,000, according to the latest report from the BLS. At the same time, the agency also revised population growth downward for Wisconsin.
Those revisions leave Wisconsin with a “jobs deficit” of 156,300, which Dresser calls “a remarkable change” from her organization's last estimate of 245,000 — and a big step in the right direction for the state’s economy. The jobs deficit is a COWS estimate of the number of jobs need to replace all those lost since the recession began in December 2007, combined with increases in population over that time.
“In short, the new estimates show more jobs and fewer people, meaning a smaller jobs deficit,” says Dresser.
UW economist Menzie Chinn has also been weighing in on the latest BLS numbers in his popular “Econobrowser” blog, where he makes the point that despite the revisions, Wisconsin is still lagging other states in job creation.
So how close is Walker to his pledge to create 250,000 jobs? Using the latest CES, the most current numbers available, Wisconsin has 64,500 more jobs in February 2013 than it did in January 2011.
The Capital Times maintains a database on our website in which we track the BLS figures.