Feds say Wisconsin leads nation in job loss

MADISON (AP) -- Wisconsin lost more jobs in the past year than any other state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bureau's figures show the state lost 23,900 jobs from March 2011 to March 2012. No other state lost more than 3,500 jobs. Of those 17,800 were government jobs.

The loss of 6,100 private-sector jobs was also tops among the 50 states and Wisconsin was the only one of those that saw a decrease in total non-farm jobs, which includes both the public and private sector.

With the June 5 recall election approaching, Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrats are telling contrasting stories about Wisconsin's economy. "Walker's jobs record is a total failure, and this is what happens when you pursue ideology instead of focusing on jobs,'' said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is competing for the Democratic nomination in a May 8 primary.

Kathleen Falk, the other leading Democratic challenger, says: "Every report card that comes in for Gov. Walker shows he's failing Wisconsin,'' said Kathleen Falk, the other leading Democratic challenger.

The Walker administration said other economic indicators such as the state's falling unemployment rate tell a positive story about Wisconsin's economy. "As we continue to move forward, we will see improvement in the numbers,'' said Department of Workforce Development secretary Reggie Newson. "There are a lot of other indicators that we see that show the governor's policies are working,'' said Newson, citing the jobless rate and business surveys projecting more hiring in 2012.

A Walker campaign ad touts the drop in the unemployment rate and the addition of more than 17,000 jobs in January and February. "We're turning things around,'' the ad says.

The state unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2008, and DWD spokesman John Dipko called the separate data on job losses an outlier among good economic news. But Democrats noted Walker campaigned in 2010 on a pledge to add 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term. Wisconsin has added 5,900 private-sector jobs since he took office.

"That's the benchmark he set for himself,'' Barrett campaign spokesman Phil Walzak said of the jobs data.