Recently, Eurostat released information about unemployment in the Euro area, and it got me thinking about employment in Wisconsin. When Governor Walker ran for office in 2010, one of his campaign promises was to create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin. I took a look at the statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, and here is what I found.
From January 2011 through February 2013, the total employment in Wisconsin has gone from 2,830,856 to 2,838,397 (although the February numbers are preliminary). That’s an increase of almost 8,000; not exactly close to 250,000. If we take a look at Nonfarm Wage and Salary Emplyment (in thousands), however, Wisconsin in 2011 was at 2745.4, and the preliminary numbers for February 2013 are at 2809.9– an increase of 64,500. Better than the total employment, but still far off from his promise of 250,000 jobs. In its Fall 2012 Wisconsin Economic Outlook (WEO), the Wisconsin Department of Revenue predicts that a total of 36,000 jobs will be created by the end of 2013. Assuming that those are Nonfarm jobs, that would bring his total job creation in three years to just over 100,000.
As for the unemployment rate in Wisconsin, according to the US Department of Labor, in January 2011 it sat at 7.7%. The lowest rate was in December 2012 at 6.7%; however, the preliminary rate for February 2013 is 7.2%. While the US Department of Labor has a trend of an increasing unemployment rate, the Fall 2012 WEO predicted that the rate will drop to 6.8% for 2013. Here’s how Wisconsin compares to the rest of the Midwest (IL-IN-IA-MI-MN-NE-ND-OH-SD-WI) in the same time:
State; Jan 2011; Feb 2013 (Preliminary)
IL; 9.4; 9.5
IN; 9.0; 8.7
IA; 6.1; 5.0
MI; 11.0; 8.8
MN; 6.8; 5.5
NE; 4.5; 3.8
ND; 3.6; 3.3
OH; 9.0; 7.0
SD; 5.1; 4.4
WI; 7.7; 7.2
It appears that Gov. Walker still has a lot of work ahead of him, so I’ve taken the liberty here to propose two ideas that will create jobs and help Wisconsin in other ways.
First, improve our infrastructure. I’m not not talking merely fixing existing roads, highways, and bridges. While those are important and would help with the construction sector, I propose that we begin seriously bolstering our public transportation system (bus AND rail.) Think about some of the possible jobs that would be created- drivers/conductors, railway construction, construction for bus and train stations, staff to maintain those stations, and maintenance for the fleet. Roads would be less congested and the impact on the environment would be tremendous. If transportation becomes easier, quicker, cheaper, and cleaner, people would be more inclined to travel, thereby helping out our tourism industry. And as well know, Gov. Walker emphasized the importance of tourism to Wisconsin’s economy in his 2013 State of the State address.
Second, spend more money on public education. I think Rob Lowe’s character on the West Wing, Sam Seaborn, made a great point about what our public education system should be like when he said, “Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything.” We need to train teachers and increase the teacher workforce. Not only will this help our already excellent university system (i.e. colleges of education), but it will positively affect our K-12 public education. If we have more teachers, we can begin to decrease the teacher-to-student ratio. From there, the possibilities for improving students’ success in education are endless. We should also spend money on improving the school structures (schools themselves, playgrounds, etc.). Not only would this require construction jobs, but it would also improve the learning environment, once again increasing students’ chances of success. Additionally (and this is the selfish teacher in me speaking), if teachers teach in state-of-the-art schools, have less students, and are respected, then teaching can become even more enjoyable than it already is for many of us. If more teachers enjoy teaching, we can increase our retention rates. In a November 2012 piece, US News reported that in high schools alone, “More than 30 percent of new educators quit teaching after three years, and nearly half leave before hitting the five-year mark, according the nonprofit National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.” Finally, instead of spending money on vouchers, spend it on our public education system.
These two ideas, along with others, could have Wisconsin setting the standards for others to emulate. It’s time to move Wisconsin forward.