By Collin Roth
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development issued a report for January 2012 showing that Wisconsin added an estimated 15,700 jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 6.9%, the lowest unemployment rate in Wisconsin since December 2008 when unemployment stood at 6.5%. The 6.9% unemployment rate shows improvement of nearly a full percentage point going back to January 2011 when the unemployment rate stood at 7.7%.
The estimated 15,700 news jobs is a great start to 2012 given the tepid job growth of 2011 which saw a net gain of just 13,500 jobs for the year. Job growth in Wisconsin was hampered by six straight months of jobs losses dating back to July 2011.
The roller coaster job numbers have been a source of political fodder for both Democrats and Republicans as the state races towards an unprecedented recall election this summer for Governor Scott Walker who pledged to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term.
Republicans heralded the net creation of 13,500 new jobs in 2011 along with the overall health and outlook of the state’s finances. Governor Scott Walker helped balance a $3.6 billion budget hole without raising taxes or massive layoffs in 2011 and property tax rates have plummeted around the state. Additionally, jobs creators have signaled that Wisconsin is moving in the right direction as surveys from the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce show an overwhelming belief that Wisconsin is heading in the right direction (a whopping 94% of those surveyed), and Wisconsin jumped 17 places in Chief Executive magazines Best/Worst States For Business.
But Democrats have used the last six months of job losses in the state to criticize Governor Walker and his reforms, parrotting the slogan “it’s not working.”
The addition of 15,700 jobs in January 2012 is no doubt welcome news and each month’s job numbers will play large for both Democrats and Republicans as a referendum on Governor Scott Walker’s first year in office races forward.