New jobs data released Thursday showed Wisconsin still struggling to build momentum on a front that remains a key topic in the upcoming gubernatorial election.
Wisconsin added 28,712 private sector jobs between March 2013 and March 2014, a 1.26 percent increase, ranking 33rd among all states, according to U.S. Department of Labor.
Also Thursday, the Department of Workforce Development said the state lost 4,300 jobs in August, which would be the fourth-largest monthly job loss since Walker took office.
The March figure comes from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which is considered the best measure of the state’s job-creation track record because it is based on information from almost every employer in the country.
Thursday’s release was the last quarterly jobs report due out before the Nov. 4 election, in which Republican Gov. Scott Walker is in a tight race with Democratic challenger Mary Burke.
The August figure comes from the U.S. Labor Department’s Current Employment Statistics, a monthly survey of 3.5 percent of Wisconsin employers, and is subject to further revision. The final monthly jobs report before the election will be released next month.
Both the quarterly and monthly figures have been widely used to track Walker’s 2010 campaign pledge to help create 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his first term, a goal he is unlikely to meet.
In recent ads, Walker has emphasized a different number, noting that Wisconsin has created more than 100,000 jobs during his first term.
Based on the latest July and August jobs figures, the state has created 100,613 jobs since December 2010.
Marquette University economist Abdur Chowdhury said Thursday he doesn’t see how the state could create 250,000 jobs by the end of the year, “so Gov. Walker’s electoral promise would be broken.”
Chowdhury said Wisconsin has experienced weak job growth in the Madison and Milwaukee areas, a decline in the proportion of manufacturing jobs and reduced demand for Wisconsin’s key manufacturing products.
“One way to respond to these recent challenges is to diversify our manufacturing base,” Chowdhury said. “The state government has not paid much attention to this area. I think all of these issues led to the dismal job creation experience in Wisconsin.”
The monthly jobs report from DWD also showed 5,300 jobs were created in July, an upward adjustment of 2,100 jobs over the initial report.
DWD announced the preliminary unemployment rate in Wisconsin declined in August to 5.6 percent, down from 5.8 percent in July and from 6.7 percent in August 2013.
“These are all positive signs that our economy is growing and Wisconsinites are getting back to work,” DWD Secretary Reggie Newson said in a statement.
Andrew Reschovsky, a UW-Madison economist, said Walker’s argument for cutting taxes by $2 billion in recent years has been that it will spur economic growth and generate more revenue.
“In fact the economy hasn’t been growing at the rate of the national average,” Reschovsky said. “These numbers are significant in that they don’t contradict that story. There’s another bit of evidence that Wisconsin’s economy is growing at a subpar rate.”
Walker campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre noted Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008 and the state’s job creation ranking was lower when Burke was Commerce secretary.
“Wisconsin’s economy is growing and moving forward under Gov. Walker’s leadership,” Marre said. “Wisconsin can’t afford to go backward with Madison liberal Mary Burke.”
The Burke campaign has run ads bashing Walker for Wisconsin being last in the Midwest in job creation among 10 states. That figure compares jobs created between March 2011 and March 2014.
Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said Walker’s “top-down approach, which puts the special interests and those at the top ahead of Wisconsin’s middle class, has led us to dead-last in the Midwest.”
From the beginning of Walker’s term through July, Wisconsin trails all Midwestern states except Illinois in private sector job percentage growth, according a State Journal analysis of jobs data.