Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke (D) released a brutal ad last month highlighting a campaign promise made in 2010 by then-candidate Gov. Scott Walker (R).
It's what political types would call a "clean hit": a blistering attack comprised solely of taking the candidate's words and comparing them to the record. Walker's promised 250,000 jobs haven't materialized. Technically, he has until January, but when Politifact Wisconsin reviewed the claim, it put the tally of jobs created at 102,000 -- less than half the goal, with precious few months left.
We were curious, though, just what the numbers looked like. Burke's ad says Wisconsin had the slowest job growth in the Midwest. Is that accurate? Over what time period? So we pulled data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and tracked the number of employed people in the labor force by month.
To cut to the chase: Compared to January 2011, when Scott Walker took office, Wisconsin had 63,598 more people working in July of this year. That's down from a peak of +71,152 in May.
It puts Wisconsin in 22nd place among the states in terms of net change since January 2011. Regardless of how you define "Midwest," Wisconsin ranks toward the bottom, but not quite at the bottom. It trails Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Missouri, but it does better than Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa.
Raw totals, though, don't mean much in that sort of comparison. It's the net change that makes the most difference. So we calculated that, too, figuring out the percentage difference between each month and January 2011.
In terms of net change -- arguably a better metric than just jobs count -- Wisconsin drops to 32nd among all the states. Other Midwestern states fall further: Illinois, in terms of percent change, ranked 39th, seeing only 1.9 percent job growth over those 40-plus months. (At the top, Utah. At the bottom, poor old Mississippi.)
If you compare where Wisconsin ended up to the time period when Walker made his prediction, in early 2010, the job increase has been bigger. Since January of that year, Wisconsin added nearly 84,000 jobs. But, then again, Walker can't take credit for those.
The 250,000 number was a bold prediction and a gamble. If Wisconsin had seen that level of job growth by this month, it would rank third among all the states with an 8.8 percent expansion since January 2011. Only Utah and Florida did better than that. Jobs in fossil fuel-heavy North Dakota would drop to fourth, having only expanded at 8.6 percent since that month.
As we said, the Burke ad is a clean hit, holding Walker to his word. If he'd met his goal, it's likely that no one -- not Mary Burke, not Bret Favre, no one -- could have beaten him.
For fun, here's an interactive version of the graph above.
And for even more "fun," an interactive version of the net change data we started with.