- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin ranked 35th in private-sector job growth rankings for the latest reporting period released Wednesday, a key benchmark for Gov. Scott Walker as he seeks re-election next year on the platform that he’s improving the state’s economy.

Walker picked the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, considered by economists to be the most accurate employment counts, as the best measurement of how well he is meeting his 2010 campaign promise to add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of this year.

The bureau reports that for the 12-month period from the end of September 2012 through September 2013, Wisconsin added 28,351 private sector jobs. Wisconsin’s 1.2 percentage-point private-sector job increase put it 35th among the 50 states. The national average was 2 percent.

Wisconsin ranked 34th during the previous 12-month period, with an identical 1.2 percentage point increase.

Walker’s job-creation record and his handling of the state economy are among the key themes of his re-election campaign against Democrat Mary Burke.

Walker’s spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, said the numbers show that the state is better off under Walker.

“Wisconsin is headed in the right direction and creating jobs,” Patrick said, noting that the state’s 6.1 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since 2008. Walker took office in 2011.

Patrick also highlighted tax cuts championed by Walker, including a $500 million property and income tax cut that the Assembly passed on Tuesday.

Democrats and Burke have pointed to Wisconsin’s lagging job-creation numbers as a sign that Walker’s policies aren’t working. Walker has blamed the slow job grown on several factors, including uncertainty caused by his recall election in 2012, the status of the federal health care law and decisions made by his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

Walker’s approach isn’t working and the struggle for Wisconsin’s middle class to get ahead continues,” said Burke’s spokesman Joe Zepecki. “That’s why Mary Burke is running for governor, to create more jobs and opportunity that strengthen Wisconsin’s middle class.”

Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive who also worked as Doyle’s Commerce secretary, has focused on Walker’s record creating jobs in the opening months of her campaign, noting that unemployment has been higher under Walker than it was in 2007 when she was in Doyle’s administration.

Walker is unlikely to meet his 250,000 jobs promise. Through the first two years of his term, there were just over 63,000 private sector jobs created. Using the best available numbers for 2013, about 39,700 more jobs were added, for a three-year total of just over 103,000.

The quarterly data released Wednesday are based on a census of 96 percent of the nation’s employers in the public and private sectors. Monthly figures released by the state, which are the basis of the unemployment percentages, are based on a survey of only about 3 percent of employers and are subject to significant revision.

Illinois was Wisconsin’s only neighboring state with worse numbers. Jobs there grew by 0.9 percentage points, putting it 41st among the states. North Dakota had the strongest growth, at 3.8 percentage points.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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