Report: Wisconsin lost 5,900 jobs in April
By: By Todd Richmond, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin lost nearly 6,000 jobs in April according to preliminary monthly data state labor officials released Thursday, putting Republican Gov. Scott Walker on the defensive as he faces a June 5 recall election.
The new data comes a day after Walker touted separate figures that showed the state added more than 23,000 jobs last year, contradicting other reports that showed a loss of nearly 34,000 jobs in 2011.
Walker's challenger, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, pounced on the new figures as further evidence that Walker's policies are failing the state. He accused the Republican governor of caring more about collecting campaign cash from out-of-state donors than job creation.
Walker's administration downplayed the new figures, stressing they were preliminary and could change. State Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, a Walker appointee, warned the preliminary data is "volatile and inaccurate."
The recall was spurred by Walker's proposal effectively ending collective bargaining rights for most public workers, but Barrett's campaign has focused more on the economy as the election draws near. He's been hammering Walker for falling far short of the pace he needs to deliver on a 2010 campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs over four years and playing up a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that found Wisconsin lost 33,900 jobs over the year that ended in March, the worst job loss of any state over that span.
The new monthly job count released Thursday, at least on its face, doesn't help Walker.
The data was based on an incomplete survey of 3.5 percent of Wisconsin employers called the Current Employment Survey. According to those numbers, the state lost 6,200 private sector jobs in April. It added 300 government jobs to finish the month with a net loss of 5,900 positions.
The CES also indicates that between April 2011 and April 2012 the state lost 21,400 jobs. Since December 2010, the month before Walker first took office, the state has added a net total of just 400 jobs.
Those numbers can change dramatically, though, as more employer responses trickle in. Preliminary figures for March, for example, showed the state lost 4,500 jobs during the month. Final numbers showed the state actually gained 2,800.
Walker took the unusual step Wednesday of releasing fourth-quarter data that will be included in the BLS' yet-to-be-released June national employment report. That data, based on job counts reported by 160,000 Wisconsin employers as part of tax and unemployment insurance reports, show the state added 23,300 public and private sector jobs last year. The BLS hasn't vetted those numbers yet, though.
Walker's administration has never quibbled much with preliminary CES data in the past, leading opponents to accuse the governor of intentionally clouding the jobs picture before the election.
"When you have a sitting governor who introduces an entirely new measurement 20 days before the election, you can bet this is about his job, not about the jobs of the people of Wisconsin," Barrett said.
Thursday's data did contain some good news for the governor. A separate tally of unemployment claims and a survey of 1,400 households showed Wisconsin's unemployment rate has improved slightly, from 6.8 percent in March to 6.7 percent in April. That's better than the national unemployment rate, which rang in at 8.1 percent in April.
Walker campaign spokesman Ciara Matthews issued a statement touting the improved unemployment rate, saying the state is headed in the right direction. She went on to blame Barrett for unemployment in Milwaukee, where the rate was 10.4 percent in March.