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Discussing the administration’s 2018 agenda on a Milwaukee radio show late last year, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said Wisconsin had an "extraordinary amount of jobs" but not enough workers with the right skills.
For proof she turned to a state-run jobs database.
"The best illustration of this … is called JobCenterOfWisconsin.com," Kleefisch told Steve Scaffidi on his WTMJ radio show Dec. 21, 2017. "You're going to see that on a day-to-day basis, we have roughly between 85,000 (and) 95,000 open jobs in Wisconsin, and yet, we only have about 40,000 folks who are currently on unemployment."
Does Wisconsin really have between 85,000 and 95,000 available jobs?
Time to dive into the data.
Database a mix of sources
The site — run by the state Department of Workforce Development — includes jobs posted there directly by businesses or workforce department staffers and those provided by a third-party jobs aggregator.
A snapshot of the database provided by DWD from Jan. 8, 2018, shortly after Kleefisch’s statement, showed a total of 83,077 jobs. About 39,000 jobs were posted directly to the site, 43,000 came from US.jobs and 1,000 from America’s Job Exchange.
US.jobs, also called the National Labor Exchange, is a national jobs clearinghouse that retrieves jobs at least once a day from numerous companies’ internal job tracking systems. The service provides about 60% of the job listings to all state job databases in the country, said Hal Cooper, vice president of product development for the DirectEmployers Association, which coordinates the database.
The number of jobs in the Wisconsin database varies by season. In 2017, it hit a high of 104,000 in May. It was just under 90,000 the day before Kleefisch’s comment, according to copies of the site maintained by archive.org.
Out-of-state, old jobs included in listing
So the totals are in line with Kleefisch’s claim. But a closer look at the data shows the matter is not quite that simple.
The jobs database includes about 14,000 positions located in Wisconsin’s four neighboring states -- Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan. One of the 15 most common entries in the "employer" field in the database is Access Dubuque, a jobs clearinghouse in Iowa.
John Dipko, a workforce development spokesman, said the jobs are included because job seekers "typically look for openings within a particular radius of their home," even if that crosses state lines. He said many of those jobs are "still performed" in Wisconsin through telecommuting or travel.
Dan Suhr, Kleefisch’s interim chief of staff, noted the database topped 100,000 in the months preceding her comment, and removing the out-of-state jobs from that number would still leave a total near the low end of the range she cited.
The database also contained some entries that appeared to be duplicates.
For example, Arby’s restaurants had 16 identical postings that each sought three assistant managers to work in La Crosse County — a total of 48 jobs. Arby’s has one location in La Crosse County. There were also 12 postings for three Arby’s managers each in Brown County, more than the number of restaurants there.
But such cases did not appear widespread.
Several of the companies with the highest number of jobs in the database confirmed the tallies were accurate. A dozen companies in the database combined for more than 12,000 job listings as of Jan. 8.
Roehl Transport had the highest number of jobs in the database at 2,174, and a spokesman said the nationwide driving shortage means there is essentially no limit to the number of drivers they would hire. Spokesmen for Ascension Health (1,080 jobs), Froedtert Health (663) and Walgreens (635) said those numbers are roughly accurate.
Job listings on Kwik Trip’s website appear to show a roughly similar number of jobs to the state database. Among other large employers, a McDonald’s spokesman said they don’t maintain a jobs total for all Wisconsin franchises, and Pizza Hut and Dollar General did not respond to requests for confirmation.
Dipko and Cooper said they have systems in place to keep outdated jobs out of the database. The internally posted jobs are removed after 90 days if employers don’t update them, and the outside ones from US.jobs are updated daily from the company servers, so those are also presumed up-to-date.
The database provided included 3,900 listings that were first posted more than a year ago, but Dipko and Cooper attributed those to job listing IDs being reused or jobs remaining open.
While making a point about the gap between Wisconsin’s job-seekers and available jobs, Kleefisch claimed in late December that Wisconsin had "roughly" 85,000 to 95,000 open jobs on a state website.
The database stood at 90,000 the day before her comment and totalled 82,000 a couple weeks later in the version released to PolitiFact.
But an examination of the 82,000 jobs showed only 69,000 were actually based in Wisconsin. It’s reasonable to include those out-of-state jobs in a database for Wisconsin job seekers, but those aren’t Wisconsin jobs.
The in-state listings appear largely legitimate, based on checks with the largest employers and a search for repeated or out-of-date listings.
But that is still short of the range Kleefisch asserted. The database changed somewhat between her statement and the data we analyzed, but not by enough to put the Wisconsin tally in line with her statement.
We rate her claim Half True.
(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, rather than Froedtert Health, which covers jus tthe Froedtert portion of the operation).
Steve Scaffidi show, WTMJ radio, Rebecca Kleefisch interview, Dec. 21, 2017
Email exchange with John Dipko, spokesman, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Jan. 8-Feb. 14, 2018
Job Center of Wisconsin database, simplified version provided by DWD, Jan. 8, 2018
Email exchange with Daniel Suhr, interim chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Feb. 12-14, 2018
Interview with Hal Cooper, vice president of product development with DirectEmployers Association, Feb. 14, 2018
Archive.org, archived versions of jobcenterofwisconsin.com from late 2017, various dates
Email exchange with Kathy Sieja, spokeswoman for Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, Jan. 29-31, 2018
Email exchange with Caryn Kaufman, spokeswoman, Ascension Wisconsin, Jan. 29-31, 2018
Email exchange with Anne Christensen, McDonald’s spokeswoman, Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2018
Email exchange with Phil Caruso, Walgreens spokesman, Jan. 29-Feb. 16, 2018
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