Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Calculate WI Job Numbers

There’s a huge shift in the job numbers between what Scott Walker has recently published vs. earlier numbers.  Previously, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that Wisconsin had lost about 30,000 jobs in 2011, more than any other U.S. State. Naturally, Barrett is shouting this from the rooftops.  Now, new BLS numbers are showing that 23,000 jobs were added in 2011. And, of course, Walker is beating that figure like a drum.  Quite a difference between the two numbers, isn’t there? WTF?!?! Anybody know what’s going on, here?

I do.

First, let’s understand, there are TWO kinds of surveys the BLS uses.  Monthly and quarterly.  Got that?  Monthly gave the negative job numbers, quarterly gave the positive ones.  Keep that in mind, because it’s important.

The previous numbers come from the monthly survey.  It polled some 1,400 employers in the state. In other words, an actual employer was contacted and asked how many jobs his/her business added or lost.  The quarterly numbers, showing much more positive results, was done by tabulating the unemployment insurance payouts of 160,000 employers. Unemployment insurance payments indicate, by deduction, whether jobs are being added or taken away based on how many are collecting unemployment over a given period.  So the more recent numbers are bigger, and thus presumably more accurate, but they rely on an indicator rather than direct numbers given by the employers themselves. They instead count the exact number of people collecting unemployment.  Also, it should be noted that big business owners favor Walker, and knowing that he was in trouble would likely cause them to fudge their numbers UP, if at all.  Instead, the numbers were abysmally LOW. Go figure.

Now, the trend regarding these two forms of job census-taking has always been that the monthly numbers are much lower than the quarterly ones.  Got that? Monthly = low, quarterly = high. This discrepancy comes from a number of different reasons. For example, not everyone looks upon collecting unemployment as an option. Many among the unemployed either consider it dishonorable or simply don’t bother to collect it. There may be college graduates living with parents, or those who live off the income of a spouse. So the numbers based on unemployment insurance always look better than the reality.

So if you’re Scott Walker, you know that these better numbers are out there, likely to come from the quarterly results.  The problem?  The numbers won’t be verified until June 28, and the recall vote takes place on June 5! So, what do you do? Why, you release the numbers BEFORE they’re verified, that’s what you do!

Illegal? No. Unusual? Fuck, yeah!

The Walker campaign is trying to say that releasing these numbers early wasn’t done to influence the election.

Riiiiiiight! And if you believe that one…

We can’t fault Walker for trying. Nearly all of us would have done the same in his position. What we CAN fault him for is campaigning on numbers which have not yet been verified. Numbers are fine, if they’re accurate. But these numbers are only preliminary! For this governor, however, accuracy is secondary to victory.

Will the numbers prove accurate after the recall is over and the dust settles? Well, based on past history of such polls, the numbers will probably show some positive job growth, but less than Walker is claiming. On top of that, the truth is obviously in between the monthly and quarterly results even after that point. In other words Wisconsin is almost certainly stagnant – few losses, but few gains, either. Walker isn’t sinking the state, but neither is he benefiting the state.  Wisconsin’s only doing okay. But it should be improving.

Upward trends are being seen in the preliminary numbers in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and nearly all other states. Wisconsin could be on board with this upward national trend, courtesy of Obama. It seems to me that Walker is in the way.


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