Employment has become central to the decisive recall battle for the state's top office, and Gov. Scott Walker experienced yet another setback Thursday as state labor officials reported the state lost 5,900 jobs in April.
The new monthly data, which the state Department of Workforce Development stresses is preliminary and subject to revision, shows the state lost 6,200 private sector jobs, but added 300 government jobs, netting out at a loss of 5,900 non-farm jobs. The data was gathered through a survey of 3.5 to 5 percent of Wisconsin employers. Since December 2010, the month before Walker took office, the state has added a total of 400 jobs.
It's the second consecutive month of private sector job losses in the state.
The state's unemployment rate, however, dipped slightly from 6.8 percent in March to 6.7 percent in April. The national average in April is 8.1 percent.
Just Wednesday, he claims paint a more accurate picture of how the state’s economy is progressing — 23,321 new public and private sector jobs in his first year in office. The numbers are due to be vetted then released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor after the June 5 election.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) said the new numbers are proof that Walker's budget reforms are working.
“This actual employee data shows that Wisconsin is moving in the right direction,” Wanggaard said in a written release. “We’ve seen the anecdotal evidence in Racine over the last year, with job growth at Ruud Lighting, DeltaHawk, and most recently Jensen Metal Products. Now, the corrected employment data matches what we’ve seen throughout the state and Racine County from job creators."
Not surprising that John Lehman, Wanggaard's challenger in the June 5 recall election, says the numbers reflect a lackluster economic recovery.
"I think Gov. Walker jumped the gun and released numbers that were unverified and the reports today tell a much different story," he said. "Walker and Wanggaard can slice it any way they want, but the fact is you can only use 'lackluster' to describe the news."
As for the difference between what Walker is saying and what was released today, Wanggaard says the data adds up.
"The actual data is based on required tax reports to the state by 96% of state employers while the preliminary numbers are based on a survey of 3.5% of employers," he added. "The actual jobs reported also matches other measurements, including the decreasing unemployment rate, lower initial unemployment claims, improved tax collections and the thousands of people who are reporting being employed."
Lehman disagrees, saying politicians are closing their eyes to evidence that suggests the long-term unemployed have stopped filing claims either because their benefit period has run out or they're just too discouraged. He also said that tax breaks touted to help businesses hire more people aren't working.
"I wish politicians would just admit that they're not job creators and the tax breaks that were supposed to put people back to work just aren't working," he said. "Look at the numbers in Racine, where the unemployment rate is abysmal. Just a few weeks ago Wisconsin rated lowest of all the states in job creation. I think the new numbers reflect more of the same."
In a statement, Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said the data "is in line with other indicators that show continued economic growth in the state."
The recall effort against Walker was largely sparked over the passage of the contentious budget bill, which curtailed collective bargaining rights for most public workers, but .