Another reason why Wisconsin UI is faring so poorly: terrible job growth in 2019

Jake has the 2019 gold standard numbers, and they are just terrible.

Wisconsin’s rate of job growth started to decline in mid-2016, and has pretty much gone down since then, with the except of a Bubbly 6 months after the GOP Tax Scam was signed into law. But last year was a new depth, with barely more than 5,000 jobs added from December 2018 to December 2019, and we even slipped below 0 in November before a small rebound in the last month of 2019.

2019 jobs numbers

Jake compares the jobs picture in Wisconsin with Minnesota, and the comparison does not go well for Wisconsin.

Total jobs added, QCEW 2010-2019
Minnesota    330,103
Wisconsin    227,993
Difference   102,110

Jake further points out that the 2019 data for Wisconsin reveals that Dane County by itself is providing the job growth for the entire state.

Jobs added, Wisconsin 2019
Dane County    +7,446
REST OF WIS    -2,367

As Jake concludes:

This data sure seems to indicate that we could learn something by being more like Minnesota and Dane County, because that’s what was working before the COVID-19 recession hammered everyone starting in March. And today’s report is yet another blaring piece of evidence of just how much we have been held back during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. It needs to be ended ASAP, and it goes well beyond changing who is in the Governor’s office.

Because job growth has been so anemic in Wisconsin, unemployment is that much more important as a wage replacement. But, as indicated previously, Wisconsin’s policies over the last decade have made unemployment much, much more difficult to get. Now with the pandemic and absolutely no jobs available at all, folks who have been suffering under meager job growth the past decade have absolutely nothing to fall back on other than unemployment. And, that system is designed to be difficult and cumbersome.

The Evers administration could start fixing this system by actually following the law rather than subverting it, as it is currently doing by denying PUA benefits to the disabled (see the discussion of SSDI in this post). And, the Evers administration could take a look at what our neighbor in Michigan is doing to make an equally difficult unemployment system at least less burdensome on claimants and the workers who have to administer that system. The results of these efforts in Michigan speak for themselves:

PUA payments the week ending April 25th

Chart courtesy of NELP

In comparison to Michigan, Wisconsin will only begin to start paying out PUA benefits next week.

Wisconsin remains . . .

Filing a claim?

Bail outs already for Wall Street; Main Street . . . [crickets]

Yesterday, March 12th, the New York Federal Reserve decided to pump $1.5 trillion into short-term markets to keep money flowing to banks and big businesses. A twitter post put this amount into instant perspective:

Student debt: $1.5 trillion

So, we are repeating the story from the last recession: bailouts for Wall Street but hand-wringing and caution about helping out Main Street.

Surprisingly, this cash infusion did little to address these problems and led to an additional sell off. Jake explains:

So the Fed is lending this absurd amount of money because banks and corporations had put on too much debt. Now these companies can’t pay off what they owe with the economy and stock market tanking, and revenues going down the drain. Which puts us right back in 2008, except the job losses will be following the crash instead of leading up to it.

* * *

Why did the DOW fall back and end up at the largest % drop since Black Monday in 1987, and 4th largest ever? Likely because the Fed’s statement gave the same message that its surprise rate cut did last week — telling the public (and especially Wall Streeters), “THIS ECONOMY IS SCREWED MORE THAN YOU KNOW.”

A column in the NYTimes agrees, explaining how much conventional wisdom is now being called into question. One thing not mentioned in this column which should give us all additional caution: corporations and the super-wealthy have been sitting on massive cash reserves over the last decade even as debt for the rest of us has been climbing.

Until we start providing some actual assistance for families and workers on Main Street, this “crisis” will continue.

FoxConn: Less is less

As part of its deal with Wisconsin for state monies being handed over, FoxConn’s job numbers are put forward every December (but will not be publicly revealed until March or April of 2020).

Last year, FoxConn was short the 260 jobs it needed for 2018 when it only hired 156 employees. For 2019, FoxConn needs 520 jobs, and the company is claiming it has already met that goal.

Note: If FoxConn manages to have 520 employees in 2019, it also gets the 2018 funds it originally missed out on. Good deal for FoxConn, it seems.

But, media reports by Jake, Murphy’s Law, the verge in October, and the verge in December indicate that FoxConn is doing little more than moving shells on a table: there appears to be nothing actually going on other than some relatively small construction of warehouse-type buildings even while the company claims that everything is fine.

Indeed, the verge’s December review scuttles any possible thought that FoxConn is doing anything considered to be manufacturing at all. All the buildings FoxConn has bought are still empty, and plans that originally should be nearing completion are delayed again and again (the latest is that LCD manufacturing of any kind will not start until 2022).

As a neighbor of mine remarks, FoxConn is a complete mystery. Nothing the company is actually doing seems to make any sense whatsoever from the perspective of trying to be a viable project of some (or any) kind.

As Jake noted on January 1st of this year, even Mt. Pleasant, which still formally embraces FoxConn, is holding off on transferring to FoxConn more of the land that the village previously bought from homeowners for the project. Given FoxConn’s lack of activity, there are questions over whether FoxConn will ever use all of this land. As Jake observes, Mt. Pleasant is facing an additional $112 million of debt in 2020, and so it is facing some serious debt problems:

Take a look at that $86.2 million in debt principal and $9.0 million in interest. Basically Mount Pleasant has to pay off one debt payment by borrowing more money, and they also plan to keep adding $48 million in sewer and other water work, along with other expenses. So $8.4 million in taxes from Foxconn compared to $143 million in expenses that are earmarked to their specific TID district? And a lot more in new debt expenses for the future? Doesn’t seem like a good deal to me.

Even with the extra borrowing, they’re still bleeding the Foxconn district’s balance down from $103.3 million to less than $72 million, which means that if more money and tax base isn’t returning to the Foxconn district in the next few years (and that seems increasingly unlikely), there’s even more debt and more borrowing that’ll have to happen.

Or…the Village will go bankrupt because it can’t (or won’t) keep going further into debt to keep pumping false hope into this white elephant. At that point, state taxpayers would likely be asked to bail out Mount Pleasant, based on this provision that is part of the Fox-con package approved by the GOP Legislature in 2017 and signed by then-Governor Walker.

Given that FoxConn has quietly (see the verge’s December reporting) transferred control of its Wisconsin operations to a subsidiary called Foxconn Industrial Internet (Fii) that is NOT part of the original FoxConn deal, it seems that FoxConn is preparing to walk away and leave Wisconsin suing a shell company that has few to any assets in Wisconsin for all of the broken promises.

I have a bad feeling about this.

Update (10 Jan. 2020): Corrected some typos and re-wrote sections of the paragraph on Mr. Pleasant’s debt problems.

Economic indicators at the end of 2019

As usual, I am piggy-backing on the good work Jake is doing.

The economy of late

Over the past several weeks, Jake has been posting extensively about the economic reports being released.

Gold standard job numbers

Reports on these numbers are a daily occurrence of late. As of Friday, Dec. 6th, the Department is touting Wisconsin as a national leader in job growth.

Yes, Jake notes, wages are up, but there are some holes to this news that means no one should be popping champagne corks just yet. Jake observes that these job numbers actually under-report the growth that was being reported in the monthly jobs reports. The recent rise in unemployment during the latter half of 2019, in addition, could either indicate a hotter, more competitive job market or a job market that is beginning to cool down.

Jake also points out some of the key takeaways from the Wisconsin’s Shifting Job Market report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. This report provides an examination of the job growth (or lack of growth) in Wisconsin over a ten-year period, from 2008 to 2018. As Jake explains:

The Policy Forum goes on to note that the Madison area has done exceptionally well in this 10-year time period for overall job growth, and in particular in these high-paying, educated/skilled positions.

For example, the Madison metro area has experienced strong job growth in general since 2008, with employment growing by over 54,000 overall (16%) and in 17 of the 22 occupational groups. Perhaps most strikingly, employment in highly coveted computer and mathematical occupations—which include software and web developers and computer programmers—has led the way, growing faster than in any other group.

* * *

[Manufacturing jobs, on the other hand, have been stagnant or in decline, particularly in the Milwaukee area.] And that trend has not gotten any better in 2019, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that manufacturing employment in the Milwaukee metro area is at its lowest level in more than 8 years, with a decline of 2,000 manufacturing jobs over the last 12 months.

That being said, the Milwaukee metro as a whole has rebounded some in 2019, with health care being a huge reasons for its job growth. As have the 2 next largest metropolitan areas in the state, for that matter. While these numbers aren’t adjusted for seasonality (and therefore require a year-over-year comparison), the Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay areas have done better for adding jobs than the rest of the state.

[One year] Job growth Oct 2018-Oct 2019
Milwaukee metro +11,800 (+1.3%)
Madison metro +4,700 (+1.2%)
Green Bay metro +2,400 (+1.3%)

The down side is that while the remainder of the state outside of those 3 metro areas accounts for just over 1/2 of the state’s employees, it’s actually lost 5,100 jobs (-0.3%) while the Bigger 3 have grown. And many of those [remaining] areas have also been stagnating in population growth with lower educational levels.

The full jobs data for the year from June 2018 to June 2019 also has some revealing information. According to Jake:

Remarkably, [Wisconsin’s] 0.40% rate of [job] growth and 39th-place rankng in the US put Wisconsin 3rd out of 7 Midwest states for private sector job growth, with only Minnesota (+0.61%) and Indiana (+0.70%) doing better than us. So unlike much of the 2010s, we’re not trailing much of our region, but our region is badly below the US rate of growth of 1.25%. Which sounds a whole lot like the 2000s before the Great Recession, which wasn’t good for the Midwest even before the economy caved in.

If you go into Wisconsin’s figures by county, this stat jumps out at you.

Private sector job change, June 2018- June 2019
Dane County +5,033
Rest of State +4,987

Total job change, June 2018 – June 2019
Dane County +6,595
Rest of State +2,745

That’s right, Dane County added more than half the private sector jobs in Wisconsin over that 12-month period, and over 70% of [total] jobs. And literally 1/2 of the 72 counties in Wisconsin LOST jobs between June 2018 and June 2019. Oh, but we’re the crazy hippie moonbats in Madison while the outstate GOPs are the ones in touch with how to grow business in 2019. Riiiight.

FoxConn

Jake has the latest on a Libertarian-leaning think tank pointing out that FoxConn truly is turning into a shadow theater of the absurd:

  • The subsidies granted to FoxConn will depress economic activity in the state for a decade or more.
  • The state is saddled with economic waste because of Wisconsin’s commitments to FoxConn that cannot now go to actual businesses that could use that money productively.
  • A recent Fox-Conn announcement about developing its Green Bay facility contained just a fraction of what was originally announced for that facility (seems to be a pattern with FoxConn) and has been met with a ‘believe it when we see it response.’

Update (10 Jan. 2019): Changed spelling of Fox-Conn to FoxConn.

Taxes and spending

Jake has a look at the latest WisPolicy Forum report on taxing and spending in the mid-west.

As Jake observes from the report, for the twenty-year period from 1997 to 2017, Wisconsin has led the mid-west in declining tax revenues, a commensurate decline in education spending, and a comparative increase in spending on Medicaid, corrections, and highways. These changes, Jake explains, are tied directly to the policy choices of recent years.

For example, a reason Medicaid spending is higher in Wisconsin because we refuse to take the expanded Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act, which would push those expenses onto the Feds instead of us (on a related note, a Pew report earlier this year placed Wisconsin 45th in the country for federal aid).

On the Corrections side, this is an obvious effect of the “lock em up” mentality of WisGOPs that has ended up with the state spending more on Corrections than the UW System. The “6th in the US” highway spending number can be connected back to a huge increase in local wheel taxes to fix roads that Scott Walker and the WisGOP Legislature refused to pay for.

Two things should be added to this post and the WisPolicy Forum’s tax report, however. First, the report is only dealing with changes in averages. So, the big shift in Wisconsin in the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto the shoulders of the middle-class is ignored. And, the over-reliance on property taxes in Wisconsin for funding local government and schools only makes this discrepancy worst, as property taxes based on a flat percentage are inherently regressive.

Second, several taxes are left out of this analysis completely, including unemployment taxes that employers pay on the first $14,000 of annual income paid to each employee. The 2018 Tax Measures Report has all of this tax information. Compared to the other fifty states, Wisconsin’s unemployment taxes are below average:

Tax amounts per covered employee in 2018

2018 Tax Measures Report at 64. As seen here, in 2018 Wisconsin’s average unemployment tax burden for employers was $255. For comparison, Minnesota’s was $340, Michigan’s was $352, and Iowa’s was $318.

Other measures likewise indicate that the unemployment tax burden on employers is exceptionally low in Wisconsin among mid-western states:

Average employer contribution in 2018 for every $100 in wages paid to an employee
Wis. 0.54
Minn. 0.56
Mich. 0.64
Iowa 0.69

For every dollar of tax paid in 2018, the amount going to
Benefits owed / Trust fund surplus
Wis. 0.75 / 0.25
Minn. 0.94 / 0.06
Mich. 0.63 / 0.37
Iowa 1.08 / -0.08

2018 Tax Measures Report at 62, 34, 33, and 26, respectively.

So, Wisconsin has the lowest unemployment tax burden of these four states, and 25 cents of every tax dollar being paid is going into the trust fund (only Michigan is saving more monies than Wisconsin for its trust fund).

Compared to these other states, then, employers in Wisconsin have little to complain about relative to employers in other mid-western states. And, this now very light tax burden in Wisconsin is very much the result of state policies that have made it difficult to impossible for employees to qualify for unemployment benefits or which make it difficult for employees to even files a successful claim.

The Wisconsin October 2019 jobs report is not good

The October 2019 jobs report has almost no information about the monthly jobs picture and mostly discusses labor force participation rates:

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) preliminary employment estimates for the month of October. The data shows that Wisconsin added 17,200 private-sector and 16,500 total non-farm jobs from October 2018 to October 2019. Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate in October was 67.1 percent, while the state’s unemployment rate in October was 3.3 percent. The national unemployment rate for October 2019 was 3.6 percent.

• Place of Residence Data: Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate in October was 67.1 percent in October, 3.8 percent higher than the national rate of 63.3 percent. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate in October was 3.3 percent, 0.3 percent lower than the national rate of 3.6 percent.

• Place of Work Data: Wisconsin added 17,200 private-sector and 16,500 total non-farm jobs from October 2018 to October 2019. From September 2019 to October 2019 Wisconsin’s private-sector and total non-farm jobs declined by 1,100 and 1,200 respectively.

Luckily, Jake looks at the actual data, and there are a lot of negative numbers:

Wisconsin jobs change
Oct 2019
-1,200 total jobs, -1,100 private sector, -1,300 manufacturing

Sept 2019 revision
-1,200 total jobs, -700 private sector
-700 manufacturing

Revised Sept totals
+600 all jobs, +100 private sector, -2,900 manufacturing

Oct 2018 — Oct 2019
+16,500 total jobs, +17,200 private sector
-7,700 manufacturing

Jake further observes that Wisconsin now has “only 100 more manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin than we had 2 years ago” and that “the number of ’employed’ Wisconsinites has declined by more than 30,000 since peaking in early 2018, and is now at its lowest level in since Trump took office in January 2017.”

Wisconsin has some serious jobs troubles and needs some advice from Yoda.

Yoda