Reality Check: WMC ad selective in statistics supporting Governor

Ads misrepresent Wis. economic ranking
Reality Check: WMC ad selective in statistics supporting Governor

We’re 14 months away from a gubernatorial election, but the ads supporting and opposing Gov. Scott Walker have already started.

A new commercial thanks the governor for creating jobs and growing the economy, but doesn’t mention his pledge to create 250,000 jobs. The ad is being run by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and wants you to think Wisconsin’s economy is doing better than it’s Midwestern counterparts.

With sights and sounds of a rocket launch, the ad counts down five statistics related to the state’s economic well-being.

“Wisconsin ranks fifth in the nation in new manufacturing jobs,” the ad says.

WISC-TV finds this needs clarification. It’s true that the National Association of Manufacturers says that Wisconsin has had the fifth-highest growth of manufacturing jobs, adding some 38,000 jobs in the field. But the report cited by WMC counts jobs added from 2009 until 2013, which would include two full years that Governor Walker wasn’t in office.

“Ahead of four competing Midwestern states in average weekly wages,” the ad says.

WISC-TV finds this needs clarification. The U.S. Census Bureau defines 12 states as “midwestern.” Wisconsin is actually ahead of five of them, not four. But the state lags behind six of them, leaving it seventh among the 12 states.

The next three figures in the ad are all citations from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and indexes it calculates for how much a state’s economy has grown and how much it may grow in the future.

“Third in the nation for three-month job growth,” the ad says. “Second among all U.S. states for potential economic growth over the next six months. And Wisconsin ranked number one for growth among all

WISC-TV finds these statements are misleading. The stats cited aren’t a measure of job growth only; they measure economic activity. The people who put these numbers together tell WISC it’s not fair to compare one state to another because each state has a different base level. In essence, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Even if you did rank the states, which the Fed does not advise, Wisconsin is now third in the U.S. in projected economic growth in the next six months, not second, as it was in June. We do beat all other Midwestern states in how much we’ve grown recently.

Given all those numbers, you may be wondering how the state economy is doing.

Marquette Law Professor Charles Franklin tells WISC-TV that will be the debate over the next year, with both sides making a case for what stats you look at and which ones are right.

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