Wisconsin Lags Neighbors, Nation In Job Growth


New numbers released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show Wisconsin continues to lag its Midwest neighbors and the rest of the nation in job growth. Economists say industries that are booming elsewhere are stagnant here.

The employer census numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show Wisconsin in a virtual tie for 41st in private sector job growth between September of 2011 and September of 2012. If you dig down three decimal places, Wisconsin ranks 44th in the country.

To give that some context, every one of Wisconsin’s Midwest neighbors fared better: private sector jobs in the U.S. economy as a whole grew twice as fast as in Wisconsin.

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Don Grimes is a labor market forecaster and analyst for the University of Michigan. Looking at Wisconsin’s numbers, he says he was struck by job losses in Wisconsin’s construction and retail industries.

“Nationally, those two industries are growing – both the construction and retail trade were adding jobs – so the fact that they’re weaker in Wisconsin – or actually declining in Wisconsin – was really sort of notable.”

Louis Johnston is a professor of economics at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota. He says neighboring states have seen big booms in the ethanol and health care industries. Wisconsin has not.

“Jobs in health care are growing in Wisconsin, but they’re not growing nearly as quickly as they are in, for example, in Minnesota or in the area of Northern Illinois centered around Chicago.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison economist Steve Deller blamed several factors for the job numbers. In an email, Deller said the austerity measures used to fix the state budget are still playing their way through the economy. Deller says political turmoil has been a factor, but says other states have more aggressive on promoting job growth. Says Deller, “Simply stating ‘Wisconsin is Open for Business’ is not a viable policy.”