In covering the latest debate between incumbent Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, the Politico's James Hohmann significantly understated the number of jobs added in the Badger State during Walker's tenure.
Hohmann wrote that "Burke attacked Walker for his 'broken promise' to create 250,000 private sector jobs during his first term. He’s now at a little over 100,000." That's only true if you think that 126,000 is only "a little over" 100,000:
As seen above, under Walker's predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle, Wisconsin lost over 170,000 seasonally adjusted jobs between February 2008 and February 2010. After Doyle left at the end of December 2010 (Walker was sworn in on January 2, 2011), the Badger State has added 126,500 jobs. Only in the James Hohmann's blue-fevered mind is that 26 percent-higher figure "a little over" 100,000.
As to Walker's promise to add 250,000 jobs, there are at least three responses:
- First, given the unprecedented hostility and disruption engendered by leftists' sometimes violent objections to Walker's early 2011 budget and public-sector union reforms, followed by their failed but time- and resource-consuming attempt to get him recalled in 2012 — which included boycott threats against merchants who would not "support workers’ rights by putting up a sign in their windows" — it's a miracle that businesses created any additional jobs in Wisconsin during Walker's first 18 months in office.
- Second, despite the obstacles just noted, Walker's record of job additions as a percentage of December 2010 employment is in the middle range of the nation's 50 states. Anyone who wants an example of a state which has gone in the opposite direction with its fiscal and tax policies need only look south to Illinois, which is still 300,000 Household Survey jobs below where it was in early 2008.
- Third, though it's not happening soon enough for anyone's satisfaction, it appears that Wisconsin may finally be consistently creating jobs at the rate Walker promised:
Readers will note that during the past three reported months, the not seasonally adjusted (i.e., actual) figures from the federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics show that over 60,000 jobs were added in the 12 months ended June, July and August. Such a performance sustained over a four-year period would lead to just shy of 250,000 additional jobs. Such a performance sustained over the final four months of 2014 would lead to just over 150,000 jobs created during Walker's four-year term.
I'll leave it to readers' imaginations to try to figure out why the raw job additions during the past three months have led to far lower reported seasonally adjusted 12-month increases in June, July and August of only 43K, 48K, and 46K (rounded), respectively. (Unlike Politico's Hohmann, I think 20 percent to 28 percent differences are more than "a little.")
Back to the post's original point: The clear lesson here is that there's good reason to doubt any figure quoted by a Politico reporter unless it's stated as an exact, unqualified figure. Even then, trust but verify.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.