In an effort to put a positive spin over Scott Walker's tenure as Wisconsin governor on the eve of his recall election, Fox News repeated questionable jobs numbers released by Walker's administration and pointed to the drop in the state's unemployment rate to prove its case. In fact, data show that there are few things to cheer about regarding Wisconsin's economic situation under Walker.
Fox Hosts Repeat Misleading Stats To Distort Walker's Economic Record
Bill O'Reilly Touted Walker's Economic Record. In his Talking Points Memo segment, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly highlighted the drop in Wisconsin's unemployment rate, saying that Walker "has a pretty good story to tell." O'Reilly continued: "When he took office in January 2011, Wisconsin unemployment stood at 7.7 percent. Now it's down to 6.7 percent, according to the last reading in April." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 6/4/12]
Hannity: "Under Governor Walker, Wisconsin Saw 23,000 Jobs Created Last Year." Introducing a focus group segment on the Wisconsin recall vote, Fox News host Sean Hannity said: "Under Governor Walker, Wisconsin saw 23,000 jobs created last year." [Fox News, Hannity, 6/4/12]
Hannity Claimed Wisconsin's Economic Performance Under Walker Is Higher Than Many Other States. Discussing Wisconsin's unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, Hannity said: "I gotta tell you something; there's a lot of states in this country right now with double-digit unemployment." [Fox News, Hannity, 6/4/12]
Hannity: Walker's Jobs Numbers Were "Confirmed" By Federal Government. After playing a Walker ad claiming that approximately 23,000 jobs were created in Wisconsin in 2011, Hannity claimed that "those numbers have been confirmed by the government." [Fox News, Hannity, 6/4/12]
In Fact, Federal Data Show Wisconsin Lost Jobs Under Walker
BLS: Nearly 13,000 Jobs Lost In Wisconsin Since January 2011. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that since Walker became governor in January 2011, Wisconsin has lost 12,800 jobs, as of April:
[Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 6/4/12]
Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin's Job Numbers During Walker's First 13 Months In Office Was The "Worst Among The 50 States." In March, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel compared job gains and losses among all 50 states between December 2010 and January 2011 and found Wisconsin's performance under Walker to be the "worst among the 50 states":
In Gov. Walker's first 13 months (using December 2010 as the baseline), the state lost 8,500 non-farm jobs. That was worst among the 50 states. Only four other states experienced a net decrease in that time. The chart below shows where other Midwestern states rank and shows the top state for job growth, Texas:
If you take the most recent 12 months -- January 2011 to January 2012 - the state lost 12,500 non-farm jobs, also worst in the nation, a fact Democrats have seized on. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/15/12]
Wisconsin's Economic Recovery Under Walker Has Lagged Behind Surrounding States
Economic Policy Institute: Under Walker, "Wisconsin Is Lagging With Employment" Compared To Surrounding Midwest States. An Economic Policy Institute analysis of BLS data shows that in the year since Walker took office in January 2011, "Wisconsin stands out in the region, lagging with employment significantly lower -- by 0.5 percent -- in Jan. 2012 than a year earlier":
[Economic Policy Institute, 3/16/12]
Journal Sentinel: Under Walker, Wisconsin "Has Lagged Substantially Behind The National Pace In Private Sector Job Growth." A chart from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows that in the year since Walker took office, Wisconsin "has lagged substantially behind the national pace in private-sector job growth":
[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/15/12]
FactCheck.org: "Wisconsin Has Lagged Behind The Rest Of The Country In The Recovery." In April, FactCheck.org criticized a Walker campaign ad touting his economic record:
[I]f you look at the jobs picture since Walker took office, Wisconsin has lost a net 14,200 jobs. In fact, Wisconsin has lagged behind the rest of the country in the recovery. While Wisconsin has lost jobs during Walker's time in office, the country as a whole saw jobs increase by 1.8 percent.
Needless to say, Wisconsin is not on track for Walker to keep his campaign promise to bring the state 250,000 new jobs by 2015.
As the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund correctly pointed out in a recent ad, in 2011, "Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state. Dead last." [FactCheck.org, 4/26/12]
Contrary To Hannity's Claim, Walker's Job Numbers Have Not Been "Confirmed" By Government
Politiscoop: Walker's Claim That Jobs Numbers Were Confirmed Is "One Of Walker's Biggest Lies To Date." The blog PolitiScoop contacted BLS to verify Walker's claim that the bureau had indeed confirmed his administration's jobs numbers and wrote:
Politiscoop contacted the BLS today for verification of the claim. It turns out to be one of Walker's biggest lies to date. In a conversation with a BLS representative, we found that the state of Wisconsin submitted a new formula in regard to jobs created or lost in the state.
The BLS said "The Bureau can not comment on the fourth quarter numbers because they haven't been released. I can say that we would not have confirmed the numbers yet, but would only have confirmed the methods used." [PolitiScoop, 5/31/12]
PolitiFact: Walker Released Wisconsin Jobs Numbers Claim "Before BLS Had Verified Them." From PolitiFact Wisconsin:
BLS officials could clear this up, but they have chosen to stick with their policy of not commenting on any individual state's data before they post the numbers for all 50 states on the federal agency's website in late June 2012 -- weeks after the recall election.
They repeated to us what they have said to other reporters: They have completed their review but can't say anything about the quality of the numbers.
"BLS approved the submission of Wisconsin data as part of the normal processing of data, but does not comment on data until released by BLS," the agency's chief spokesman, Gary Steinberg, said in an email.
Steinberg, of BLS, made clear that "any state may release its data when ready and does not need to wait for BLS to release data."
For instance, Minnesota also has released its quarterly census data and -- similar to Wisconsin -- the data shows a much larger job gain than the monthly estimates.
Minnesota released its data only after BLS reviewed and verified it. Wisconsin, by contrast, put its numbers out -- and Walker immediately put them in campaign TV ads -- before BLS had verified them. [PolitiFact Wisconsin, 6/1/12]
Associated Press: Walker Releasing Jobs Numbers Before Federal Verification Was "A Highly Unusual Move." In an Associated Press report on the economic situation in Wisconsin, the AP wrote:
Unemployment figures have been a major issue in the campaign, with Walker relying on one set of numbers based on a census of nearly every Wisconsin employer that show the state gained more than 23,000 jobs in 2011.
Walker released those figures last week, a highly unusual move that came before the numbers had been reviewed and finalized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers won't be finalized until three weeks after the recall.
Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, said that because those numbers are preliminary, the data that should be looked at to judge Walker are monthly figures based on a much smaller survey of about 3.5 percent of the state's employers. Those figures show the state lost 33,900 jobs in 2011.
In the past, Walker's administration never quibbled much with that survey, leading opponents to accuse the governor of intentionally clouding the jobs picture before the election. [Associated Press, 5/24/12]