Saturday, November 29th, 2014
Mostly False
Democratic Party of Wisconsin
Under Gov. Scott Walker, "unemployment is increasing in Wisconsin at twice the rate it is nationally."

Democratic Party of Wisconsin on Monday, August 1st, 2011 in a news release

Wisconsin Democratic Party says unemployment increasing in Wisconsin at twice the national rate, under GOP Gov. Scott Walker

After employment figures for June 2011 were announced, the Wisconsin Republican Party, among others, declared that over half of the job growth in America occurred in Wisconsin.

We graded that statement False, given that the GOP’s math made an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Ten days after the Republican Party made its claim, the Wisconsin Democratic Party focused on the other half of the jobs equation: unemployment.

The Democrats asserted in an Aug. 1, 2011, news release that "the jobs-killing policies of Scott Walker and his GOP allies in the Senate have put Wisconsin on the top of the heap in unemployment growth. Contrary to Walker's flailing claims about creating jobs, he and his Republican Legislature have actually deepened the pain for Wisconsin's job seekers."

Then, citing an opinion column posted the previous day in the Capital Times newspaper of Madison, the party claimed that under Walker, "unemployment is increasing in Wisconsin at twice the rate it is nationally."

That line caught our attention.

We rated the Republicans wrong on their claim; let’s see about the Democrats.

We called and emailed state Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski over two days to see if there was other evidence the party wanted us to consider. He did not respond.

The column cited in the Democrats’ news release was written by John Nichols, who is associate editor of the Capital Times and Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine. Both publications have long been known for having a liberal editorial stance.

Nichols wrote that unemployment in June 2011 rose by one-tenth of 1 percent nationally and two-tenths of 1 percent in Wisconsin. "That’s twice the rate of increase at the national level," he said.

Besides the state Democratic Party, Democratic Underground, the pro-labor group Solidarity Wisconsin and RecallScottWalker.com also cited Nichols’ column.

We checked the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that compared May 2011 and June 2011 unemployment rates and found that Nichols was correct: the U.S. rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 9.2 percent and the Wisconsin rate rose by twice that amount, 0.2 percentage points, to 7.4 percent.

But the state party’s claim was that under Walker, "unemployment is increasing in Wisconsin at twice the rate it is nationally." That sets not a one-month measuring stick, but a much longer one.

Here’s a look at the U.S. and Wisconsin monthly unemployment rates from January, when Walker took office, through June of 2011.

January: U.S. -- 9.0 percent ; Wisconsin -- 7.4 percent

February: U.S. -- 8.9 percent ; Wisconsin -- 7.4 percent

March: U.S. -- 8.8 percent; Wisconsin -- 7.4 percent

April: U.S. -- 9.0 percent ; Wisconsin -- 7.3 percent

May: U.S. -- 9.1 percent ; Wisconsin -- 7.4 percent

June: U.S. -- 9.2 percent; Wisconsin -- 7.6 percent

(The July 2011 figures are scheduled to be released Aug. 19, 2011.)

So, the Wisconsin unemployment rate remained unchanged -- at 7.4 percent -- for the first three months of the Walker administration, then it dropped one-tenth of a point in April 2011.

The next month, Wisconsin’s rate returned to 7.4 percent, rising by 0.1 percentage point -- the same rate of increase that occurred nationally.

In June 2011, as we’ve already established, Wisconsin’s rate rose 0.2 percentage points and the U.S. rate rose 0.1 percentage point.

That means Wisconsin’s unemployment rate increased during two of the first six months of the Walker administration, and it rose more than the U.S. rate only one of those times, in June 2011.

The figures also show that both the Wisconsin and U.S. unemployment rates were both 0.2 percentage points higher in June 2011 than in January 2011.

We asked Jon Peacock, research director of the liberal Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, about the monthly unemployment numbers under Walker. He was aware of the small state and national unemployment rate increases in June 2011.

"Taking a really short-term look at things is problematic, especially when you’re looking at unemployment rates -- but also when you’re looking at jobs (growth)," Peacock said.

In other words, a one-month change in jobs numbers -- good or bad -- does not a trend make.  

So, let’s rate the statement.

The state Democratic Party said that under Walker, "unemployment is increasing in Wisconsin at twice the rate it is nationally," suggesting a strong upward trend had been established.

The state’s unemployment rate did rise by 0.2 percentage points in June 2011, which was double the 0.1 percentage point increase in the U.S. unemployment rate. But this was far from a consistent trend or even a sharp increase. In the first six months of Walker’s administration, the Wisconsin unemployment rate rose more than the U.S. rate only in one month. Moreover, the overall percentage point increase in the state and U.S. rates when compared to January were the same.

The Democrats’ claim contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. That’s our definition of Mostly False.