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Reality Check: Clearing up candidate statistics

Reality Check: Clearing up candidate statistics

MADISON, Wis. - Just three weeks before Election Day, the candidates for governor are making what they call their closing arguments to voters.

Those arguments still include some numbers, and in the continuing battle of statistics, the candidates argue over whether Wisconsin is on a comeback.

"He calls it a comeback," the announcer says in the latest ad for Democrat Mary Burke. "But under Scott Walker family incomes are down $2,700."

News 3 finds this needs clarification. Actual wages have gone up according to federal figures, not down. The median household in Wisconsin is actually making $51,467, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2009, that average household income was $49,993. But when you look at those 2009 numbers adjusted for inflation, it's clear that household incomes have not kept pace. Census Bureau numbers show the 2009 income indexed for inflation is $54,210, meaning the median family is about $2,700 worse off than it was four years ago.

"Wisconsin workers get paid $5,000 less a year than in Minnesota," the announcer says in the ad.

News 3 finds this is true, but Wisconsin's average annual wages have been less than Minnesota's for years.

Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2013 show the average Wisconsin worker makes $42,310. A Minnesota worker makes $47,370. News 3 compared those numbers to 2005 numbers, and found that the difference in wages between Wisconsin and Minnesota has been between $4,500 and $4,700 in all the years since then.

"Wage growth, dead last in the Midwest," the announcer says. "Consumer spending, dead last in the Midwest."

News 3 finds these are true. Looking over Walker's full term, Wisconsin ranks last among Midwest states in growth of wages, according to the BEA. The most recent figures available from that agency also show Wisconsin among the lowest in the country for growth in consumer spending from 2011 to 2012. The agency has not released numbers for the years since 2012, so we can't say whether this has improved.

In his latest ad starting this week, Walker argues a different trend.

"We're bringing them back," Walker says in the ad. "Over 100,000 new jobs since we took office."

News 3 finds this is true. The state has created around 102,000 jobs since 2010, but not the 250,000 that the governor promised in his last campaign.

Then the governor makes the claim central to the manufacturing-centered ad.

"Wisconsin ranks fifth in the nation in new manufacturing jobs," Walker says.

News 3 finds this needs clarification. Using monthly figures, the governor is right that between December 2010 and August 2014, Wisconsin did create the fifth-most new manufacturing jobs in the country. But if you look at percentage growth of manufacturing jobs over that time, the state ranks 20th in the country.

If you have an idea for a Reality Check, send it to us at realitycheck@channel3000.com.

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