By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin ranked 34th in private-sector job creation over the past 12-month period ending in March, adding 24,000 private sector jobs in that time, data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed.
The figures are a key benchmark, picked by Gov. Scott Walker, to measure how well he is meeting his 2010 campaign promise to add 250,000 private sector jobs by 2015. He’s nowhere close to meeting the pledge. Through his first two years in office, only 63,000 jobs were created, putting Wisconsin on pace to only get about halfway to the goal.
As has become the practice with every release of new data showing Wisconsin lagging the nation, Democrats jumped on the figures to argue it shows Walker’s policies are failing. Walker, meanwhile, said the latest numbers show the state’s economy is headed in the right direction.
“These numbers show we’re making significant progress, and they don’t yet include the best summer Wisconsin’s had in 23 years,” Walker said in a statement. “This is good news, but our work isn’t finished. Our number one focus has been on helping the people of this state create jobs, and that will remain our focus each day moving forward.”
Walker and Republican legislative leaders earlier this week introduced a package of eight economic development bills for the Legislature to take up later this year. Walker said those proposals, which largely build on existing programs, would go a long way toward him meeting his campaign promise.
But Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca criticized the proposals as insignificant, and said the latest jobs figures show Republican policies are failing. Republicans took control of both houses of the Legislature in 2011, the same year Walker took office.
“Wisconsin lags much of the nation in job growth because Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans have spent the past two and a half years undermining workers, public schools and people who need health care instead of focusing on jobs and improving economic prospects for middle-class families,” Barca said in a statement.
The latest BLS numbers show that between March 2012 and March 2013, Wisconsin added 24,305 private sector jobs. That was 1.1 percent growth, roughly half the national growth rate of 2 percent. Illinois, which had 1 percent growth, was the only neighboring state that fared worse.
Private sector jobs grew by 2.8 percent in Michigan, 2.1 percent in Minnesota, and 1.2 percent in Iowa.
Walker faces re-election next year and is considering a run for president in 2016. Walker remains a popular draw at Republican fundraisers and other events across the country as he continues to raise his profile in advance of a possible presidential bid.
Walker’s liberal critics say he’s spending too much time outside of the state instead of focusing on Wisconsin’s economy.
“Based on the latest report of sub-par job performance by Gov. Walker it’s clear the only 250,000 number he’ll achieve in his term is 250,000 frequent flier miles,” said Scot Ross, director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.