Employment has become central to the decisive recall battle for the state's top office, and Gov. Scott Walker experienced yet another setback Thursday as state labor officials reported the state lost 5,900 jobs in April.
The new monthly data, which the state Department of Workforce Development stresses is preliminary and subject to revision, shows the state lost 6,200 private sector jobs, but added 300 government jobs, netting out at a loss of 5,900 non-farm jobs. The data was gathered through a survey of 3.5 to 5 percent of Wisconsin employers. Since December 2010, the month before Walker took office, the state has added a total of 400 jobs.
It's the second consecutive month of private sector job losses in the state.
The state's unemployment rate, however, dipped slightly from 6.8 percent in March to 6.7 percent in April. The national average in April is 8.1 percent.
Just Wednesday, he claims paint a more accurate picture of how the state’s economy is progressing — 23,321 new public and private sector jobs in his first year in office. The numbers are due to be vetted then released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor after the June 5 election.
The recall effort against Walker was largely sparked over the passage of the contentious budget bill, which curtailed collective bargaining rights for most public workers, but now the main event’s central issue has shifted to jobs.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s challenger in a recall election set for June 5, has hit the governor on what he calls Walker's inability to jumpstart the state's economy and to deliver on a campaign promise to create 250,000 private sector jobs.
"Gov. Walker can trot out all the alternate data he wants, but the numbers are the numbers,” he said. “Wisconsin has finished dead last in a number of job creating statistics during his tenure as governor."
Democratic Rep. Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay expounded on Barrett's statement: "No amount of lipstick can cover up this pig — Gov. Walker has the worst jobs record in the country. He has taken our state in the wrong direction, and his divisive and extreme policies are clearly not working for our state.”
In a statement, Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said the data "is in line with other indicators that show continued economic growth in the state.
"Job creators and job seekers rely on accurate workforce data when they decide to seek employment or grow their businesses in Wisconsin,” Newson said. “When a highly volatile data series diverts from other indicators of job growth — such as fewer Unemployment Insurance claims and increasing state sales and income tax collections — it creates a misleading picture that’s out of line with other indicators that show Wisconsin’s economy is headed in the right direction.”