Job and wage growth remained in the middle of the pack in 2016

Wisconsin ranked 30th in job creation and 21st in wage growth according to federal data released Wednesday.

STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL

Wisconsin’s job creation and wage growth remained in the middle of the national pack last year, according to federal data released Wednesday.

The state added about 31,000 jobs in 2016, ranking 30th in the nation, up from 36th in the previous year. The 1.3 percent growth in the state lagged the national average of 1.9 percent.

The average annual wage was $45,954, up 1.6 percent from the previous year. That growth ranked 21st, up from 26th the previous year. The increase was better than the 1.2 percent national wage growth.

In Gov. Scott Walker’s first six years in office, the state has created 201,123 jobs, still well short of his 2010 campaign pledge to create 250,000 jobs in his first term.

At the current pace, the state would hit his original goal by the end of his second term. In recent years, Walker has shifted his focus from job creation to workforce development as employers complain about a dearth of qualified workers and unemployment, most recently at 3.2 percent, nears a record low.

Since 2010, Wisconsin ranks 31st in job creation and 15th in wage growth.

The figures are based on annual averages from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which Walker has described as the “gold standard” for measuring job growth in the state. It is based on data reported to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from almost all employers and lags six months behind monthly jobs reports.

The annual average provides a more robust picture of job totals throughout the year than in any given month, which can fluctuate depending on seasonal trends in employment.

Comparing December with the previous December, the state created fewer than 12,000 jobs over the year. Using that measuring stick, the state ranked 33rd in job creation last year.

Walker’s office had previously released some of the federal figures, but Wednesday was the first time annual average job numbers and the comparison with other states were available.

Democrats cited the loss of manufacturing jobs in the state last year. There were 2,470 fewer manufacturing jobs, a half-percent decline, the first time manufacturing job numbers have declined since Walker took office. Twenty other states had larger declines in the manufacturing sector.

“Too many good-paying jobs are leaving Wisconsin as Republicans cut funding from local schools, increase health care costs and ignore our crumbling infrastructure,” Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said in a statement. “Republican policies that take money away from workers and reward companies for outsourcing jobs are driving our state toward another disastrous economic recession.”

Department of Workforce Development Secretary Ray Allen highlighted the state’s improving rank in wage growth, and also pointed to other economic indicators that “overwhelmingly point to stable and steady growth in jobs, wages and the economy over the past six years.”

“With more people employed today in Wisconsin than ever before and an unemployment rate at its lowest point since February 2000, the latest quarterly data also shows six straight years of private sector job growth under Governor Walker’s leadership through 2016,” Allen said.

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Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.