Gov. Walker touts new, more accurate jobs numbers

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker is touting new positive jobs numbers he says is a more accurate reflection of how the state's economy is turning around. Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says Walker is cooking the books by releasing the figures before they have been reviewed by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The figures based on a census of businesses released Wednesday, May 16th show Wisconsin gained 23,300 public and private jobs in 2011. Previous totals based on a smaller survey of businesses showed the state lost 33,900 jobs over the year.

Walker said the move to release these new jobs numbers 20 days prior to the June 5th recall election was not a typical, but he says Wisconsin voters are getting the wrong idea and he had to correct it. Barrett says the timing is clearly a political ploy.

Barrett says he has no idea whether the new figures are accurate. "What we're seeing is a very cynical attempt by the governor to change the subject. He knows his job performance numbers are the worst in the nation," Barrett said.

"The narrative goes from having many people talking about losing jobs to now saying 'no, we gained jobs.' It's a great foundation for the future," Walker said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics survey is more widely used, but Walker points out it is a poll, whereas the Department of Workforce Development figures are hard numbers. However, it is highly unusual to use the DWD numbers, according to Marquette University's Economics Department chairman Abdur Chowdhury.

"No other state in the union uses that data. Usually what states do is go with the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The reason Scott Walker wants to use this data is it's obviously more favorable to his administration," Chowdhury said.

"This is not a typical thing to be done, but it's not inconsistent with what other states have done, if they felt the estimates were very different. The irony is, you're going to hear the mayor -- and this is why I say it isn't political -- the mayor of Milwaukee and his campaign people will talk about anything except the raw data," Walker said.

"He's singing out of many, many different parts of his mouth on this. No one can verify the data. He's putting out the data and this is data that is normally verified by the federal government," Barrett said.

Walker's preferred DWD numbers haven't yet been verified, but economists say they don't expect Walker's numbers to change much. "It's more reliable in the sense that it is the actual jobs that have been created, whereas the Bureau of Labor Statistics is sort of a survey," Chowdhury said.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party is alleging Walker illegally coordinated with the Department of Workforce Development and essentially used a state agency as a campaign tool. The Department of Workforce Development director says the news was released to share a more accurate economic picture with the state's employers.

Gov. Walker promised to create 250,00 private sector jobs over four years. That amounts to 62,500 a year.

The recall election is June 5th.

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