Job growth elsewhere gives context to Wis. figuresAccording to the U.S. Labor Department, five states added more net jobs last month than Wisconsin did — Texas (32,000 jobs), California (28,800), Michigan (18,000), Minnesota (13,200) and Massachusetts (10,400).
By: By Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker was correct this week in saying Wisconsin's net gain of 9,500 jobs last month was more than half the jobs added across the nation in that period — but looking at figures from other states makes the tally seem not quite as rosy.
While Wisconsin's monthly job numbers are generally released with little fanfare, Walker held a news conference Thursday to call attention to June's figure. He revealed that Wisconsin had added 12,900 private-sector jobs and lost 3,400 government jobs, for a net gain of 9,500 jobs.
Meanwhile, he noted, the U.S. recorded a net increase of 18,000 jobs for the month. All numbers are seasonally adjusted.
"In light of national job numbers ... our efforts in Wisconsin stand out," he said.
Comparing the Wisconsin and U.S. figures directly, however, could lead to a faulty inference — that the bulk of the new U.S. jobs were in Wisconsin. As it turns out, that's far from the case.
According to the U.S. Labor Department, five states added more net jobs last month than Wisconsin did — Texas (32,000 jobs), California (28,800), Michigan (18,000), Minnesota (13,200) and Massachusetts (10,400).
Nationwide, the gains were offset by net losses elsewhere, particularly in three states affected by harsh weather this spring. Tennessee lost 16,900 jobs, Missouri shed 15,700 jobs, and Virginia had a loss of 14,600 jobs.
When asked to comment Friday on the detailed U.S. figures, Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said, "While Wisconsin fared well compared to numbers nationally, we still have a lot of work to do in Wisconsin."
The governor had attributed much of Wisconsin's job growth to an increased focus on the state's tourism industry. That led to questions of whether the jobs were seasonal and would disappear in several months.
Walker replied that some were summer jobs but that an unspecified number would carry over into subsequent months, as summer tourists who visited lakes and other attractions gave way to visitors who returned to hunt in the fall or engage in snow sports in the winter.
One economist was skeptical. Dave Marcouiller, who teaches urban and regional planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said jobs in tourism-related industries tend to last only through the summer. The jobs also tend to come with low wages, he added.
"In general these are not high-quality jobs," he said. "These are not the year-round, benefit-rich jobs that I think we need to improve the middle class in this state."
Data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the average hourly wage in Wisconsin's leisure and hospitality industry has ranged from about $11 to $12 since 2007. There were 254,100 jobs in that Wisconsin sector last month, 6,200 more than in the previous month and 3,300 more than in June of last year.
Tourism is a major part of the state's economy. Travelers accounted for about $12.3 billion in spending last year, on items from camping in the wilderness up north to staying at posh hotels in downtown Milwaukee, according to a study released by the Wisconsin Tourism Department.
Also unclear, though whether the new jobs reflected an increase in out-of-state travelers or simply represented Wisconsin residents who were trying to save money by staying in-state.
Either way, Marcouiller questioned the logic of trying to improve the economy by simply boosting tourism. He acknowledged that for unemployed people desperate for work, lower-paying tourism jobs were better than none, but he said jobs in other industries would provide steady jobs and sustainable incomes.
"The bigger concern is, how do we create high-quality jobs that can sustain household needs?" he said. "I'm not discounting tourism, but it can't be looked at in isolation."