Gov. Scott Walker is touting new positive jobs numbers, but Democrats are questioning the timing of the early release of the figures ahead of the recall election.
Walker's administration released updated employment figures that show the state actually added a small number of jobs during his first year in office.
The new figures Walker issued on Wednesday come less than three weeks before voters will decide whether he should stay in office or be replaced with Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Walker took the unusual step Wednesday of releasing fourth-quarter data due out in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' June 28 national employment report.
Walker's administration said the new numbers, taken from the state's Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, show Wisconsin added 23,300 public- and private-sector jobs in 2011 instead of losing 33,900.
The numbers are preliminary and subject to revision by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The final count comes out June 28, three weeks after the recall.
The more commonly used standard for measuring Walker's progress on job creation based on a monthly survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a loss of 33,900 jobs over 2011, which would rank worst in the nation.
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which released the new numbers early Wednesday morning, said they reflect reports from nearly 160,000 employers.
"These numbers are the unemployment insurance records of virtually all employers in the state of Wisconsin -- approximately 160,000 employers," said Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson.
The Walker campaign didn't skip a beat -- touting the new positive jobs numbers in a new ad. The TV ad released Wednesday includes footage of Walker touting new jobs data that the state made public just hours earlier.
"Obviously (it's) a much more accurate reflection of what the jobs numbers looked like in 2011," Walker said. "I think that's good news -- not only for me, but I think it's good news for the employers who are looking to expand their businesses in the state."
Newson told WISC-TV that while he had discussed these new jobs numbers with Walker in the days leading up to Wednesday, he said there was no directive by Walker to release them. Newson said the decision to release new jobs numbers early was his alone.
Newson said the pending recall had no effect on his unusual decision to release the data early. Walker appointed Newson to his post.
But the Barrett campaign said Walker is cooking the books by releasing the figures before they have been reviewed by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"So here we are, 20 days before an election, and he creates his own set of numbers that he wants us to believe," Barrett said.
Barrett said these numbers have never been used in the past, and he called the Walker administration move purely political.
"This jobs report that (Walker) is putting out is really about one job -- his job," Barrett said. "Because he knows that the public is now understanding that in 2011, under his leadership, Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state in this country."
Because of the timing of the new ad, Democrats are accusing the governor's campaign of collaborating with the state Department of Workforce Development on the release of the data, and using taxpayer dollars for political gain.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party has filed a complaint against Walker over his latest television ad, which includes footage of Walker touting new jobs data that the state made public earlier in the day.
The Democratic Party alleges in the complaint sent to the Dane County district attorney and the state elections board that Walker illegally used state time and resources to craft a political message in violation of the law.
Walker's campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews dismissed the charge, saying Walker shot various versions of the ad in advance of when the final numbers were known. She said the final version of the ad was completed Thursday morning before being electronically sent to stations.
Economists said new the jobs numbers being reported by Walker's administration are a more accurate reflection of how the state is doing.
But even if the figures released Wednesday are accurate, the 23,300 jobs created in 2011 are far from the 62,500 needed per year for Walker to meet his 2010 campaign pledge to create 250,000 by 2015.