MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin added jobs at half the national average, ranking it 38th in private-sector job growth for the 12-month period that ended in September, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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The state has lagged the national average since July 2011, bad numbers for Gov. Scott Walker as he talks about his record while ramping up for an expected presidential bid. Walker, who took office in January 2011, has called the quarterly jobs numbers the "gold standard" by which his accomplishments should be measured.
Walker was in South Carolina on Thursday and Friday for a series of stops related to his likely presidential campaign.
"Wisconsin's economy is growing and we are moving in the right direction," Walker's spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in a statement, noting that the unemployment rate has dropped from 8.1 percent to 4.8 percent over his time in office.
"Governor Walker's policies are working and our unemployment rate is down for the right reasons," she said.
The 4.8 percent figure is based on monthly data that can fluctuate wildly, and Walker has said in the past that his performance should be judged based on the more-reliable quarterly figures.
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The latest jobs number, based on a survey of nearly every employer in the state, were down from the previous quarterly report in which Wisconsin ranked 31st in job growth.
"While Gov. Walker continues to campaign across the nation on the taxpayers' dime, Wisconsin families are struggling here at home," Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said in a statement. She said Democrats, who are in the minority in both the Senate and Assembly, will push proposals to raise wages and job opportunities.
The numbers show that private-sector jobs grew 1.16 percent in Wisconsin during the 12-month period, while the national growth rate was twice as high at 2.3 percent. Wisconsin added 27,491 private-sector jobs during the most recent period compared with 36,732 in the previous report.
All other neighboring states grew at a higher rate than Wisconsin, except for Iowa, which was tied with Wisconsin. Michigan was the highest at 2.02 percent growth.
The monthly report released Thursday, put out by Walker's Department of Workforce Development, showed Wisconsin's unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent in February. That is the lowest since July 2008. The national unemployment rate was 5.5 percent. It is based on information from only about 3.5 percent of employers and is subject to significant revisions. The report showed the state added 13,600 private-sector jobs between January and February.
Walker last week signed a right-to-work law, which he and supporters said would help increase jobs in the state. But critics say the fact that Wisconsin lags other states in job creation shows Walker's policies, including the 2011 law that nearly eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers, are hindering the state's growth.
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