Thursday, May 17, 2012

Enough on jobs

We are about to get the estimate derived from the establishment survey on jobs gained or lost in April. As reported in this morning's paper, the estimate is expected to be disappointing because the national numbers for April were disappointing. In addition, if Department of Revenue economist John Koskinen's suggestion that our state's numbers are improperly benchmarked and understate economic activity, we  might expect that to continue.

But there are a few things that we know for sure.

First, the claim that Wisconsin lost jobs in 2011 is wrong. Sorry, but an actual count (and the QCEW is pretty close to that) trumps an estimate. The reason that the surveys are used is that the QCEW - as its name suggests - comes out quarterly and even then at a substantial delay. (The numbers that were released "early" are for a period ending almost five months ago - December 31, 2011.) But you can't contradict a count with a survey. That narrative is over.

This isn't "fiction" and it isn't "made up" or "new" numbers. The QCEW is a standard economic measure that the federal government has used for years. The most that can be said is that we don't know how Wisconsin's job gains in 2011 compared to other states.

Second, the argument over monthly numbers is not over which one is the most accurate or the best, but about what they tell us together. This is something that the media hasn't quite gotten to. We are looking at a number of measures - jobs gained or lost based on the establishment survey, jobs gained or lost based on the household survey, the unemployment rate, increases or decreases in unemployment claims, tax collections and periodic measures in personal income growth. All have their strengths and weaknesses. What is significant is that only one measure (the establishment survey) points to job losses. The others point int the other direction. We are normally skeptical of outliers. When most indicators tell us that jobs are growing and the economy is improving, they the ones that are probably right.

Third, the most important thing may be that we are having this debate. Remember, this is not a normal election. It is a recall. The Democrats are asking us to do something that has happened only twice in the history of this country. Having had a number of failed strategies, they now are asking us to do it because they think Scott Walker has "wrecked" the state's economy. If Walker's policies justify making him the third Governor in the history of the nation to be recalled, they better have been pretty bad.

But if they were that bad, we wouldn't need to be having esoteric arguments over quarterly censuses and benchmarked surveys and tweaked numbers. If Scott Walker deserved to be recalled for "wrecking" the economy, we wouldn't need any numbers at all. We'd see newly shuttered stores and homeless encampments on the lakefront. We'd see Detroit.

But we don't. We see a state that is in better fiscal shape than it was a year ago with rising tax revenue. We see a state in which we were told that the new budget would lead to disaster, but where disaster is no where to be seen. To be sure, the budget entailed hard choices and cutting things that we might have preferred not to cut, but those choices were inevitable.

The recall is about a garden variety policy dispute. It is about the prerogatives of the public employee unions and Party of Government being challeged. Let's just admit that and move forward.


Anonymous said...

I love numbers. I can get them to say whatever I want!

Let's make sure WHO made it a point that jobs would be at issue here...Walker. So he has to take the valid criticism as to his "playing the numbers" game when he touts his 250,000 plan.

Wisconsin has been pretty close to the national average as far as the unemployment rate. As they say, “A rising tide lifts all boats”. How much of the job creation is a direct result of Walker??? Probably very little.

Unemployment went down 1% the year BEFORE Walker got into office, and 1% after. I find it VERY hard to give credit to anyone for their first year in office whether good or bad. You barely have time to enact any policies in that time and have them trickle down. A better barometer would be how we stack up versus the rest of the Midwest in job creation. Even the “tax-hell” of IL’s unemployment rate has dropped 2% points in the past 2 years.

We can argue until your blue in the face as to HOW Walker did it, but that is where the politics of this comes in.

Look at the national unemployment rate for Obama. It continued up almost 2 full points within 6 months of him being in office. I wouldn’t categorize that as his fault. And now it is almost exactly where it was when he took office. Does he get credit for that??? Not on THIS blog at least. The argument will be that it should be better and that it would have been quicker recovery. But those are things that no one except Nostradamus knows for sure. More politics.

And yes, I know the economy is way more than unemployment, but if the numbers continue as they are now, it will be difficult to argue with the numbers come November. Unemployment rate is the easiest number for the media to use and the people to digest...and be fooled!

Anonymous said...

It's not just about jobs, although Walker's done nothing in that regard. There's one reason why Walker should be recalled. He's an arrogant jerk. It's his way or the highway. Divide and conquer. Drop the bomb. (That he made both these statements in such a way that we can play back the tape shows he's also a stupid arrogant jerk.)

As governor of a state, you are governor of all its people. You've got to give them some reason to respect you. Tommy Thompson managed that. Walker is incapable of it. Send the SOB packing.

Anonymous said...

"Let's make sure WHO made it a point that jobs would be at issue here...Walker. So he has to take the valid criticism as to his "playing the numbers" game when he touts his 250,000 plan"

Right...but the 250,000 jobs goal was his 'promise' for his ENTIRE four-year term. So let's make sure that is clarified, as well.

"I find it VERY hard to give credit to anyone for their first year in office whether good or bad. You barely have time to enact any policies in that time and have them trickle down."

There's your golden relates to the four-year-term referenced above.

As for the numbers and making them "say whatever I want"; That can't be done with these numbers being referenced. Each employer must share the NUMBER of employees that worked for them on each Quarterly 941 report, and must share the NAMES and NUMBER of employees who worked for them on each Quarterly unemployment tax report to the WIDWD. They quite simply can not be changed.

Have you noticed, as well, that the BLS numbers are revised for the preceding month when a new estimate is shared with the media? In fact, the March numbers were revised UP - 2800 jobs rather than over 4000 lost jobs.

What's wrong with 'divide and conquer' in respect to public unions, particularly when you're the governor of the state?

As for 'the bomb' would YOU have put it in the context of that conversation? I'd like to hear some of YOUR 'private' conversations and hear your verbiage.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with "divide and conquer" in respect to public unions, when you're the governor of the state? Public unions are organizations of public employees. In other words, if you're the governor of a state, these are your own footsoldiers, your own troops -- the people the state and its political subdivisions rely on to do the public's work. Public servants. If you're conquering your own troops, you're engaging in what in wartime is called friendly fire, or fragging. You see anything wrong with that?

There's a delicate line that must be walked that both protects the public fisc and gives public sector employees reasonable pay and other terms of employment. You don't come out and announce you're going to frag your own people -- not unless you're a stupid arrogant jerk.