MADISON, Wis. - New jobs numbers show unemployment in Wisconsin is down slightly for the month and the state had job gains in January, but last year was worse than previously thought.
New data from state labor officials show Wisconsin added only 6,000 private-sector jobs during the first 13 months of Gov. Scott Walker's administration.
Whether the complicated federal labor statistics represent good or bad news for Wisconsin's economy depends on what you focus on and who you ask. Republicans and Democrats took widely differing views on job numbers released Thursday.
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development figures show the state added 12,500 private sector jobs in January 2012 but those are balanced against job losses during the past year. The state unemployment rate dipped from 7 percent in December 2011 to 6.9 percent in January.
Gov. Scott Walker was in La Crosse Thursday touting a net gain of 12,500 private sector jobs in January, saying the numbers show the state is headed in the right direction.
"Jobs were created in January. We had a net gain; unemployment was down," said Walker. "This is yet another example of those gains for the future and hopefully February, March, April and beyond will show good monthly numbers to come."
According to the DWD, the state finished December 2010 with 2,323,600 jobs. Data the agency released Thursday shows the state finished January with 2,329,600 jobs.
But hindsight is now changing the picture of how well the state has done during the governor's first year.
Previous estimates showed 15,700 total government and private sector jobs were created from January 2011 to January 2012.
But new numbers released Thursday show that over that same time period the state lost 8,100 jobs.
Looking at just private sector jobs, estimates previously showed 13,500 jobs created. Actual numbers show only 6,000 jobs created so far during the governor's term.
"It's not just some wild number in the sky or a bunch of indicators. Those are very certain numbers," said Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. "Of course the governor stated he was going to tattoo on the heads of his cabinet secretaries he was going to create 250,000 jobs. I applaud him for that initiative, but you have to have bills that make that become a reality."
A spokesman for the Department of Workforce development said Thursday that maybe the jobs figures aren't the numbers to focus on.
"I think given the fact that the initial numbers showed six straight months of job loss and now we see that is not the case, that in itself points to the importance of not focusing squarely on these numbers," said John Dipko, communications director for the Department of Workforce Development. "They're going to be revised in the future and they should be viewed as an indicator, and when taken in context with other indicators, they show a picture of growth."
As for why the numbers have changed so much, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics first takes a surveyed snapshot, and the actual and revised figures look at a full census count of state jobs.
Walker took office in January 2011 promising to create 250,000 private-sector jobs during his first term.
The governor and state officials said they still believe the 250,000 job goal is attainable. But if Walker's administration is to reach that goal, it would have to create about 7,000 jobs every month between now and the end 2014.
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