New data says Wisconsin isn’t losing manufacturing jobs, but the state’s job growth still lags

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Depending on which data source you look at, Wisconsin either lost 1,300 manufacturing jobs in the first six months of the year or added 8,000.

The first number is a seasonally adjusted figure that comes from a monthly survey of businesses. It is the same survey that provides jobs data nationally on the first Friday of the month.

The second number comes from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, a measure that’s based on payroll data from nearly all companies that comes out with a six-month delay.

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While the QCEW data is generally considered a more accurate measure of employment, it doesn’t include the same seasonal adjustment as the monthly survey.

A year-over-year comparison, however, still shows a more optimistic picture for Wisconsin. The QCEW data says Wisconsin manufacturing employment increased 1.85% from June 2018 to June 2019. The monthly survey data says employment was up just 0.29%.

The more than 1.5-percentage-point gap is actually the smallest in the six-month period. In 2019, the survey data underestimated Wisconsin manufacturing job growth by an average of 1.84%.

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The gap between the monthly and quarterly data sources drew the attention of Noah Williams at the UW-Madison Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy. In a policy brief, Williams noted the monthly survey had shown manufacturing declines in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that were not replicated in the quarterly data, estimating the state’s had an additional 8,700 and 11,000 manufacturing jobs respectively.

Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development also seized on the new QCEW data when it was released last week, highlighting that Wisconsin had the strong manufacturing job growth nationally from March to June and ranked third in year-over-year job growth. Wisconsin also ranked in the top 12 for job growth from March to June in education and health services, construction, retail and private sector jobs.

The new, more accurate quarterly data does put Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector in a better light.

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In the monthly data, Wisconsin averaged a 0.6% year-over-year increase in jobs, which ranked 37th in the country, compared to 2.4% average growth and a 15th place ranking.

However, the boost in the manufacturing sector did not translate to better overall private sector job performance.

In the monthly data, Wisconsin averaged 0.68% growth and ranked 41st in the country for the first six months of the year. The quarterly data gives Wisconsin a slightly lower average at 0.53%, which ranked 42nd.

From June 2018 to June 2019, Wisconsin added just 10,202 private sector jobs, a 0.4% increase that ranked 39th in the country.


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