Wisconsin's unemployment rates drops to 6.9%

MADISON (AP) -- Wisconsin labor officials say the state added 12,500 jobs in January.

Data the Department of Workforce Development released Thursday shows the state added 15,700 jobs but lost 3,200 government jobs.

The state's unemployment rate fell slightly, from 7 percent in December to 6.9 percent in January. The agency cautioned the figures were preliminary, but said unemployment was at its lowest since December 2008.

The new numbers were good news for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has promised to create 250,000 jobs during his first term and faces a potential recall election this summer.

However, unions and Democrats still say the state is headed in the wrong direction.

Union workers protesting janitor layoffs in downtown Milwaukee Thursday weren't convinced Wisconsin's unemployment picture is looking up, despite the numbers released by the DWD Thursday.

Bessie Hervey lost her job in November. "Every other state in the nation has done very well, except for Wisconsin. In the state, right now, it's not going good," Hervey said.

Governor Scott Walker cheered the job numbers in his weekly radio address Thursday, saying Wisconsin is "headed in the right direction for 2012 and beyond."

Walker's opponents point to six straight months of private job loss, but the federal government also announced revised numbers in an annual process called re-benchmarking. Wisconsin only lost jobs in five of the last six months, according to the new statistics.

Walker said in his radio address he plans to "build off this strong foundation to put even more people to work in Wisconsin," but those protesting in downtown Milwaukee Thursday said they're unconvinced.

The numbers released Thursday are preliminary, and revised numbers are expected in the coming months.