MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Unemployment rates dropped in most Wisconsin counties and largest cities last month, according to the latest batch of jobs data released Wednesday, less than two weeks before the June 5 recall against Gov. Scott Walker.
Unemployment figures have been a major issue in the campaign, with Walker relying on one set of numbers based on a census of nearly every Wisconsin employer that show the state gained more than 23,000 jobs in 2011.
Walker released those figures last week, a highly unusual move that came before the numbers had been reviewed and finalized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers won’t be finalized until three weeks after the recall.
Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, said that because those numbers are preliminary, the data that should be looked at to judge Walker are monthly figures based on a much smaller survey of about 3.5 percent of the state’s employers. Those figures show the state lost 33,900 jobs in 2011.
In the past, Walker’s administration never quibbled much with that survey, leading opponents to accuse the governor of intentionally clouding the jobs picture before the election.
The new figures released Wednesday by the Department of Workforce Development, an agency within Walker’s administration, track local unemployment rates and employment figures for metropolitan areas.
The department’s numbers show that 30 of the state’s 32 largest cities saw unemployment rate decreases between March and April, with Mount Pleasant experiencing a slight increase from 9 percent to 9.1 percent and Brookfield unchanged.
Racine had the highest unemployment rate at 11.2 percent, while Caledonia had the lowest at 3.4 percent.
Every county’s unemployment dropped except Iron County, where the rate increased from 12.7 percent to 12.8 percent. Menominee County’s jobless rate was the highest at 15.9 percent, while Dane County had the lowest rate at 4.4 percent.
Job increases were reported in four metropolitan areas – Green Bay, La Crosse, Oshkosh-Neenah, and Sheboygan. Job losses were reported in seven – Appleton, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Madison, Milwaukee, Racine and Wausau.