New data released late last week by the US Department of Labor shows that Wisconsin continues to be a leader - leader in unemployment claims.
Report showed that for the week of January 26 thru February 1st, Wisconsin led the nation in largest increases in initial employment insurance claims, with 5,041 more individuals out of working and requiring employment insurance. More than New York (+4,830), Pennsylvania (+2,448), New Jersey (+1,853), and Ohio (+1,780).
At this point we're tied for 7th place in the country for states with the highest UI insured unemployment rates.
And while other states try to explain the reasoning for residents requiring employment insurance, such as layoffs in the transportation and construction industries in PA or layoffs in the manufacturing industry for OH; Wisconsin makes no attempt to explain the reason why our state leads the country in more people out of work and newly needing employment insurance protection.
Here's why this matters, beyond the fact that fewer people are working and we're given no rationale. Wisconsin legislators have played around with the idea of reducing the number of weeks individuals can stay on unemployment compensation when out of work. Reducing it from 26 weeks to possibly as low as 12 weeks. It is a position that we have argued against for months, and continue to do so.
Why reduce unemployment compensation? Because citizens that drop out of the labor force and stop looking for work are not included in the employment rate for a state. Meaning that Wisconsin could lower the unemployment rate simply by convincing more workers to stop looking.
Walker promised us 250,000 jobs. And barring another industrial revolution within the next few months in Wisconsin it is unlikely to happen. But here's where these new unemployment insurance numbers come in. Much like higher health costs in Wisconsin vs Minnesota, it is difficult to blame national trends on why one state (Wisconsin) is doing worse than other states. And to go after the unemployed in order to discourage them from looking is to admit failure at creating jobs.
So Governor Walker, during this election season we'd suggest not trying to convince anyone that Wisconsin is a national leader in anything other than in higher unemployed numbers. But in the meantime, don't go after the unemployed.