MADISON — Wisconsin added nearly 37,500 private sector jobs between March 2011 and March 2012, though total job growth was only 1.1 percent because of government job losses, according to data released today by Gov. Scott Walker's administration.
New quarterly numbers provided to The Associated Press bring the total number of private sector jobs created during the 12-month period to 37,464. But the number of lost government jobs was 9,364, which translates to an overall gain of 28,100 jobs.
"Overall, we'd like to see greater growth," Walker said in an interview Wednesday. "To me, I'd want to be going at record-setting pace. I don't think that's going to happen, based on the people I've talked with, until after Nov. 6."
Walker said employers were skittish about creating jobs during the months ahead of his recall election, which ended with his June 5 victory, and are now waiting to see how the presidential election turns out.
Today marked the second time that Walker's Department of Workforce Development released quarterly job numbers before the data had been vetted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The first time Walker released the numbers early — in May, just weeks before his June recall election — it generated a political firestorm because the numbers showed a gain of roughly 27,800 jobs in 2011, instead of a drop of 22,700 as reflected in the state's monthly surveys.
The quarterly numbers are based on a census of 96 percent of Wisconsin businesses, whereas the employment figures released monthly are based on a survey of about 3 percent of employers. Only the monthly figures are seasonally adjusted to reflect normal changes in employment, such as dips in the winter months, which is why Walker's administration looks at the quarterly numbers in yearlong periods.
Discussing the latest numbers, the governor also said that a factor affecting employers' willingness to add jobs is having an adequately trained workforce. Walker said he was committed to working with the University of Wisconsin and others to ensure that training is available for vacant jobs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to publish its vetted quarterly numbers for all states on Sept. 27. Without those numbers, it's unclear how Wisconsin's 1.1 percent job growth compares with any other state.
Wisconsin Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said his department will continue to release the quarterly numbers when they are submitted to the bureau instead of waiting for the federal agency to publish the numbers.
"We want Wisconsin employers and everyone in Wisconsin to have the most accurate information," he said.
Walker, who appointed Newson, said he supports that approach. Both argue that other data — including unemployment gains and per capita income growth — has contradicted the monthly surveys showing job loss.
The discrepancy led the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and the state Department of Workforce Development to put a greater emphasis on the quarterly numbers, which the departments' economists said better reflect true job growth in the state.
Still, no matter the measurement, Walker is far from meeting his campaign promise of creating 250,000 private sector jobs by 2015 — a promise he reiterated during his fight against the recall.
According to quarterly data, the state lost 50,611 jobs in the first three months of 2012, and a total of 31,060 jobs since December 2010, the month before Walker took office. But those numbers are misleading when looked at monthly instead of over a 12-month period, since they aren't seasonally adjusted like most other economic information released throughout the year, said Wisconsin Department of Revenue chief economist John Koskinen.
Employment ebbs and flows during the year, and comparisons from low winter months to other times of the year would give an inaccurate picture of the state's overall job performance, he said.
"It's sort of like comparing temperatures in July to temperatures in February," he said.