Wisconsin was second in the nation in total job losses last month, a somewhat surprising development considering the state’s unemployment rate has reached its lowest level since November 2008.

Employers in Wisconsin shed an estimated 9,500 total public and private sector jobs in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported late last week.

Along with North Carolina (11,300 job losses) and Alaska (2,300 job losses), Wisconsin experienced a “statistically significant” decline in employment, according to a press release from the BLS.

The Wisconsin losses included an estimated 7,900 government jobs, 5,000 jobs in professional or business services and 2,200 in manufacturing.

Those losses were offset by gains of 900 jobs in construction, 700 in hospitality and 4,200 jobs in health care.

Still, experts caution that the figures released Thursday are the Current Employment Statistics (CES), an estimate based on monthly surveys of about 5 percent of employers. The figures are often revised in the following month as more data is analyzed.

The CES is not as accurate as the quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (CEW), which is based on actual hard jobs data but only released every three months.

The last CEW — which was released last week and garnered widespread media coverage — showed Wisconsin fifth in the nation in manufacturing jobs gains but also 35th among the states in total job growth in 2013.

“Yes, this tick down in February is a bad sign but the recovery in manufacturing has been one of the few good stories in the state,” says UW-Madison economist Laura Dresser of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy.

Robert Kraig of Citizen Action Wisconsin says the new figures suggest a continued trend toward fewer jobs in higher-paying sectors and increases in lower-paying positions.

“These new numbers mean there has been both a loss of jobs generally and also a shift toward poverty-wage jobs and away from middle class jobs,” he says.

Officials with the state Department of Workforce Development, which did not respond to a request for comment, did not mention the latest job losses in a press release Thursday. It focused on what the BLS called a “statistically significant” drop in the unemployment rate to 6.1 in February from 6.9 percent a year ago.

DWD secretary Reggie Newson also noted that Wisconsin has gained 30,000 jobs over the past 12 months, according to the CES estimates. He called the new figures “positive signs for our state's long-term growth."

Dresser of COWS agrees that the jobs picture in Wisconsin is improving but not fast enough to replace all the jobs lost during the recession. She says the state still has a "jobs deficit" of 126,000 — the number needed to replace those lost and account for population growth.

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“We are on roughly an upward trend in jobs,” says Dresser. “Not enough jobs, not fast enough growth and not every single month, but largely positive.”

In fact, the latest COWS analysis shows Wisconsin closing the gap with the national rate of growth.

Dane County is certainly doing well on both the job and wages front. It was ranked No. 2 in the U.S. in wage growth over the past year in the latest CEW and Madison was called the No. 2 Best City for Jobs this week by ZipRecruiter, a national job search site.

Job creation will likely prove a central issue in the upcoming race for governor.

Incumbent Gov. Scott Walker has maintained that his policies of cutting taxes coupled with a more business friendly attitude in state government will boost the Wisconsin economy.

But after a campaign pledge to see 250,000 new private sector jobs created during his first term, Wisconsin has added only about 100,000 new jobs since Walker took office in January 2011.

The state now ranks 9th out of 10 Midwestern states in job growth under Walker.

Democratic challenger Mary Burke this week rolled out her own job creation plan based on investments in education and boosting entrepreneurs via expanded venture capital funds for new businesses.

At the same time, some have suggested that politicians have little impact on job growth one way or another. The state has also lagged on job creation for 15 years, notes the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Some economic development experts have blamed Wisconsin for failing to transition from low-growth areas like agriculture and manufacturing into higher growth areas like information technology and clean energy.

Kraig of Citizen Action says it should come as no surprise that job growth has lagged over the past three years under Walker.

“Walker's austerity program is having a big negative impact, as is the lack of any strategy to invest in creating and maintaining family sustaining jobs,” he says.

A recent analysis produced by the Wisconsin State Journal shows the state was doing better on the jobs front under former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, than under the Republican Walker.

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(19) comments


7,900 government jobs lost means 7,900 families no longer having incomes to spend in local restaurants, stores, supermarkets and countless other small businesses that make up local city, county and state market economies. It means fewer tax dollars to do routine maintenance on public property, repair potholes and do a long list of other things. Mindless chanting of the empty slogan "small government" is foolishly, disastrously short-shorted. Nobody argues for big government. We need right-sized government. Right-sized to do its job well and efficiently.

Comment deleted.
David Lee

If your are correct, why are all the rest of the states economy's improving while we are at the bottom. That's the result of scooters leadership, not Obama. Quit making excuses for this loser.


I'll take Mary Burke's 60% job creation success as opposed to Scooters 40% job creation. Wisconsin needs to open its eyes to what is going on in Madison.


Thank you Governor! We got rid of 7,900 government "workers". It takes 4 to 5 private sector jobs to pay for each government employee. This is like gaining 40,000 "jobs".



People who would vote for this guy just for giving them a few dollars is insane. As soon as the elections are over walker going to say OH sorry things came up we're going to have to raise your taxes to pay for all the things we missed. Read my lips Republicans say, no new taxes. Wait till the elections over

David Lee

Thank you Scooter. Time to dig out a new bag of lies as to why you are such a failure. Never your fault is it Scooter. Why are all the "leading" repukes such liars? But the funny part is that their supporters think they are actually accomplishing something. Burke must be smiling and thanking Scooter and his flunkies, the fitzjerks for their superior leadership. Pretty soon we will manage to be right down there between Arkansas and Mississippi as the biggest failed states in the union.


Did anybody but burnout read the article? Based on 5%. I say Walker for Pres.! Go Scotty!

Tim Russell

There is a pretty good chance the the results are worse than reported here. Wisconsin's economy is a mess and to not realize it is being "in denial".

Mr Bluejeans

Never heard of stastical sampling?


The Wisconsin losses included an estimated 7,900 government jobs!

Shrinking government. THIS IS AWESOME NEWS!

Now these people can produce taxes in the private sector rather than consume them in the public sector.

Mr Bluejeans

It doesn't matter where the source of employment is ... Government or private if you are employed you pay taxes. Not employed & therefore no income no taxes. Government employees don't *consume* taxes, they PAY them to the government for doing a job that needs to be done. Contracting the jobs to the private sector ( you know, paying THEM to do the job) is still using taxpayer $ .


Moron! If we PAY the worthless government employee $100K and they pay $5K in state income tax, we are out $95,000.00. How do you see that as a positive?

David Lee

Greg, you consistently demonstrate what a shallow, petty, jealous person you really are. Grow up, and get a real job and your attitude will change. How do you spell failure? LUCE.


Walker has the audacityto gloat in Vegas about his Wisconsin practics and politics. Then scourge Mary Burke's campaign for jobs that were lost during Doyle's governorship??? We were in a recession most of the years Doyle was gov Walker lies! straight out and up!!! In his book he says his car was rocked while in La Crosse???? Sorry folks that would have been a TOP NEWS STORY with on site coverage and lots of police and Feehan interviews! NEVER HAPPENED and where are your 250,000 jobs that you promised to create??? You can NOT use "future jobs:" or new traiining programs to your benefit these aren't jobs! Only the REAL numbder of jobs can be used and it seems you are well behind in the numbers you promised! Look at the criminal behavior of your CLOSEST associates in the Milwaukee County Exec. Office...NO way are your hands CLEAN come on Wisconsin let's take back our state! If we are going to lag in job and soar in job loss why keep this guy in a position to further ruin WI


Doing a bang-up job, Scottie! Keep up the good work!

RINO Cowboy

WhooHoo!! ALMOST # 1!! Way to go Rockstar Scotty. Maybe you should include this information in those campaign ads slamming Mary Burke.


If Walker cant produce jobs he'll buy votes for just a few dollars. While this state's infrastructure is worse than the jobs report. After we get this few dollars, we'll have to be taxes again at a greater rate even if Walker gets re-elected to pay for the tax rebate he gave us, to pay for ALL THE THINGS HE'S NEGLECTED.

Tim Russell

This mess that is the Wisconsin Economy should not be a surprise. These same economic principals, aka trickle-down economics, has been shown in the past to be an utter failure. And not just once but rather repeatedly. The question remains how many of Wisconsin's voters still believe it is a feasible economic policy. The answer to that will come in November.

Frédéric Bastiat

I love this "mess". Getting rid of 7900 government "jobs" is a huge win for people that believe in free market commerce.

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