Are Wisconsin jobs numbers accurate?
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker released the state's yearly employment numbers a month early in order to get the maximum political benefit from the improving jobs picture in Wisconsin.
Democrats cried foul, and accused Walker of fiddling with the numbers. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics has confirmed only that they have completed the survey. The BLS will not comment on the numbers until they are officially released June 28.
But Walker says the numbers are accurate.
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development spokesman John Dipko said the Washington-based agency confirmed Wednesday that Wisconsin added 23,608 jobs in 2011. That figure is slightly higher than the initial 2011 figure publicized by Walker, which showed a gain of 23,321 last year.
However, Rick Clayton, a senior Bureau of Labor Statistics official on Wednesday would only confirm that the agency had completed its review of Wisconsin's 2011 jobs data.
Clayton, who oversees the preparation of the state jobs data, declined to say whether the figure used by Walker was accurate.
"We have completed our review of the data, and we will release that data on June 28," which is the regularly scheduled release data, Clayton said.
The jobs numbers dominated political debate Wednesday night after Walker's announcement.
In response to Walker, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate issued a statement claiming that Walker's pre-release is "illegal" - a charge that a bureau official said is unfounded.
Tate cited a 2006 order by the commissioner of the bureau that said it is illegal to pre-release monthly bureau jobs data, which at the national level comes with a closely held embargo and is highly sensitive because it can cause major moves in financial markets.
But the monthly BLS data, which is collected and owned by the federal government, is different from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data, which is the information Walker released. The Quarterly Census data is collected and owned by each state, Clayton said.
The BLS could easily have confirmed those numbers to state officials while refusing to publicly confirm them until the official release. That appears to be what has happened here.
Democrats are barking up the wrong tree if they think they can get any mileage out of accusing Walker of manipulating the jobs numbers.