Last week I posted a simple chart from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing that between March, 2011 and March, 2012, Wisconsin was the only state in the nation to have a statistically significant decline in the total number of jobs. Here it is…
The chart didn’t get a lot of attention on the blogs, but the facebook reactions were fascinating. Before I discuss those reactions, here is my understanding of the table. It counts jobs in the state, not the number of people working. It is an estimate based mostly on surveys that measure non-farm payroll. Every instance of someone on somebody’s payroll in that month is counted as a job. If someone in Milwaukee works at a Milwaukee McDonalds during the day and a Milwaukee Burger King at night, two jobs are counted for Wisconsin. If a person lives in Racine, Wisconsin but commutes to Chicago to work, that is not counted as a Wisconsin job. Again, the report measures jobs, not people.
There is another report put out monthly by the BLS at the same time that estimates the unemployment rate by state. It is based on different surveys from the ones described above. It is a ratio of the number of residents in a state who are working compared to the size of the state’s workforce. Those numbers are not related one to one. If the number of people working stays the same in a month but the size of the labor force goes down because people moved, died, or retired, the unemployment rate can go down even though the same number of people are working. If our imaginary worker from the previous paragraph is laid off from his night job at Burger King, he is not considered unemployed because he still works at McDonalds during the day. If the Racine worker loses her job in Chicago, she counts as one of Wisconsin’s unemployed because she lives in Wisconsin. The report measures people, not jobs.
In summary, the two reports are significantly different. Among other differences, one report is based on where the jobs are, the other is based on where the person resides. Neither is inherently better than the other, but they are not two ways of measuring the same thing, which is the way many lazy journalists describe them.
I’m not a statistician or an economist, but if you are either of those, please correct me in the comments if my understanding of these reports is way off base.
The image of the chart on facebook was shared a few hundred times, and here are my general descriptions of the most common reactions.
1. F&%$ Walker! (This is found often among the early comments, which were posted by my circle of friends and by friends of my friends.)
2. Wow! This needs to be shared.
3. Where are the other 22 states? (I explained a couple times that the chart shows statistically significant changes only.)
4. This only has 28 states, therefore it is obviously faked, you liberal leech. (I tried to explain statistical significance again, but the reaction to that was usually something like “Oh yeah? F&%$ the unions!!”)
5. The same press release shows that the unemployment rate for Wisconsin went down, so you suck, Giles, and you’re a liar. (See my explanation above of how both can be true. The reaction to the clarifications was “You still suck, Giles”)
6. So what? Scott Walker balanced the budget without raising taxes. (Both of these are false. The budget came up 143 million dollars short, mostly from unrealized tax revenues because of the lack of job growth, and Wisconsin still has a structural deficit. Walker also raised taxes on the poor and on senior citizens.)
7. Yee haw! Look at Texas!
8. F$%* the unions!
10. You liberals twist everything. I don’t believe it.
11. That’s not true. (No reason given. No evidence. They simply don’t accept it.)
12. You liberals are desperate. Just wait until we kick your ass in the recall! (Nobody’s ass is getting kicked in the recall elections. We are a severely divided state. The election will be close no matter who wins.)
The numbers come from a reputable source with a long track record. The job loss in Wisconsin is a cold, hard fact that anyone can see in this chart that is devastatingly simple. That’s why it causes brain cramps and cognitive dissonance among the Walker faithful. Scott Walker promised that Wisconsin would create 250,000 private sector jobs by 2015 if he were elected. He is taking Wisconsin backward while every other state in the nation is gaining jobs or staying statistically even.
Please copy this image and share it wherever you think it might catch the eye of a Walker backer or any other Tea Party zombie. It’s very effective. You don’t even have to comment much about it. It speaks for itself.