POLITIFACT: Walker's promise of 250,000 new jobs broken

September 18, 2014
James B. Nelson

Economists say time has run out on top campaign promise

Shortly after he won the 2010 election for governor, PolitiFact Wisconsin told Republican Scott Walker that we planned to monitor progress on his top campaign promise -- that the state would add 250,000 private-sector jobs by the end of his four-year term.

Bring it on, Walker said, adding that his official web site would be keeping its own tally.

Although there is no evidence that Walker kept his own public progress report, we have been updating that promise on our Walk-O-Meter each month.

Over the past three years, the jobs tally has been an up and down mix. For instance, in eight months of 2014, five showed declines and three showed increases.

The latest monthly report from the state Department of Workforce Development, issued Sept. 18, 2014, was a mixed bag. The report said there was a loss of 4,300 jobs in August. It also revised the July count up by 2,100 jobs, for an increase of 5,300 in that month.

The result is that the state has added about 8,800 jobs this year.

For our Walk-O-Meter tally, we use the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which surveys nearly all state businesses, to get the most accurate picture for Walker's first three years in office. We then combine that with monthly survey data to provide the most-up-to-date look at where things stand so far in 2014.

Our tally now stands at 102,195 jobs -- or about 40 percent of what Walker promised. You can see our monthly graphic tracking the governor's progress on the promise here.

Time is running out on this campaign promise.

There are four months remaining before the end of Walker's term. To meet the promise, state employers would have to add 147,805 jobs, or an average of 36,951 per month in each of the next four months. That's far more than have been added in any recent year.

"I don't think Wisconsin can create 250,000 jobs by the end of 2014," said Marquette University economist Abdur Chowdhury. "So Gov. Walker's electoral promise would be broken."

Chowdhury said a number of factors contributed to the state's lagging numbers. They include:

-- Most jobs in Wisconsin are created in the greater Milwaukee and Madison areas. But both these urban centers experienced weak growth in the last few years. If these two cities had grown at the average rate of other metro areas, an additional 50,000 jobs would have been created.

-- Although manufacturing growth in Wisconsin in the last few years was above the national average, manufacturing intensity has dropped. It now accounts for about 16% of employment instead of 20% a decade ago.

-- Also, the major manufacturing industries in Wisconsin include, paper products, plastic, etc. Demand for these products have dropped.

"One way to respond to these recent challenges is to diversify our manufacturing base," Chowdhury said. "The state government has not paid much attention to this area."

As it became more evident that 250,000 jobs promise would be unattainable, Walker and his supporters began to shift attention from the vow and began to parse the promise. He criticized the data. He argued the recall elections had spooked state employers. He claimed the tally was far higher than it was. He talked about how many jobs were lost under his predecessor.

And in recent campaign ads, Walker adopted a new it-is-what-it-is strategy and highlights the fact the state has added about 100,000 jobs on his watch (compared to 133,000 lost in the last term under Democrat Jim Doyle).

Walker himself has acknowledged that he has fallen short on the jobs promise. On Aug. 28, 2014, Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade asked Walker : " Would you admit that you didn't reach your goal" of creating 250,000 jobs?

"Oh, there's no doubt about it," Walker responded.

In May 2014, as it became evident that there has not been a massive surge in private sector hiring, we moved the 250,000 jobs promise from In the Works to Stalled.

In the three months since that change, the number of private sector jobs has fallen by 900.

We're moving this rating to Promise Broken.

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