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Wisconsin Fell Short Of 250K Job Goal During Walker’s 8 Years In Office

New 'Gold Standard' Numbers Show State Added 233,101 Private Sector Jobs During Walker's Tenure

steel worker
Paul Sancya/AP Photo

New “gold standard” job numbers released Wednesday show Wisconsin created a total of 233,101 private sector jobs during the eight years Scott Walker was governor, falling nearly 17,000 jobs short of the 250,000 job benchmark Walker promised for his first four-year term.

The numbers also show that over Walker’s eight years in office, private sector jobs grew in Wisconsin by 10.3 percent, which ranked 34th among all states and trailed the national growth rate of 17.1 percent.

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The numbers released Wednesday come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics “Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages,” or the QCEW. As the name suggests, they’re a detailed count of nearly all employers, which is why they take several months to collect.

While typically only followed by economists, the numbers were watched more closely during Walker’s tenure because of his explicit promise to help the private sector create 250,000 jobs in his first term.

“I want every cabinet secretary to have branded across their head, ‘250,000 jobs,’” Walker told the Dairy Business Association in December 2010, shortly before he took office.

Wisconsin added roughly 129,000 private sector jobs in Walker’s first term, falling short of his goal, and the numbers released Wednesday show the state never hit the 250,000 job benchmark while he was governor.

The new numbers show Wisconsin finished in the middle of the pack when compared to is Midwest neighbors. From December 2010 through December 2018, Michigan (17.5 percent) and Minnesota (13.9 percent) added private sector jobs at a faster rate, while Illinois (10 percent) and Iowa (8.7 percent) trailed Wisconsin.

Notably, 2018 was the first year ever that Minnesota’s private sector job total surpassed Wisconsin’s, nudging ahead by 160 jobs. Minnesota’s overall job count, including both private and public sector workers, surpassed Wisconsin’s in 2017.

While Wisconsin has trailed other states in terms of job growth, by another metric, its economy is as strong as it’s ever been. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate, which is calculated using a monthly survey of Wisconsin households, was 3 percent when Walker left office. It hit a record low of 2.8 percent in April.