Feds considering unemployment data advice from Wisconsin's DWD
MILWAUKEE - It was a contentious issue during the 2012 gubernatorial recall campaign. Did Wisconsin gain jobs in 2011, or lose jobs?
Both ultimately-successful Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his recall challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) had defensible claims to either side. Walker released an ad in the closing days of the campaign saying Wisconsin gained more than 23,000 jobs. That was a response to an ad by Mayor Barrett claiming the state lost more than 14,000.
During the campaign, Barrett relied on monthly, state-by-state numbers released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics which surveys 3.5% of Wisconsin businesses, while Walker relied on an early, federally unvetted release of the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. The latter report is often considered more accurate because it surveys more than 90% of Wisconsin businesses.
The inaccuracies between the monthly and quarterly data prompted Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson to send a letter to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, requesting they go back to the older, more accurate method of data management that was previously used by the states. On Thursday, he got a response from acting BLS Commissioner John Galvin saying they hope to have the changes he suggested in place for reports beginning next year.
The difference between the two data sets became larger when the BLS took over monthly data reporting from state governments in 2011. Part of the information the BLS uses to calculate monthly unemployment data is the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), the data Walker based his claims on. When states did their own monthly data, they used the first three QCEW reports of the year. However, because of the logistics and timing of those reports coming in, the BLS used only two quarters worth to report their data.
That's what Secretary Newson asked be changed.
Galvin responded that the BLS is currently researching how to do that, and "While the research is not yet complete, preliminary results suggest that we probably will be able to update [monthly unemployment] estimates with QCEW data through the third quarter with the next annual benchmark scheduled for publication in March of 2013."
Galvin also said that the BLS hopes to have a decision made on that within the next few weeks.
The final data for Wisconsin job growth in 2011 showed the state created 19,551 total jobs between the public and private sectors. That ranked Wisconsin 41st in job creation as a percentage of population for the year.