MADISON, Wisconsin — Gov. Scott Walker made it only about halfway toward his signature job creation promise and Wisconsin ranked 38th in job growth in 2014, trailing the national average, according to data released Wednesday by the federal government.
Private-sector jobs grew just 1.51 percent last year in Wisconsin, compared with 2.6 percent growth nationwide, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed. Over Walker's first term, as the state and country began to recover from the Great Recession, Wisconsin private-sector job growth was 5.7 percent; that compares with 9.3 percent growth nationwide.
Walker, who took office in January 2011, has called the quarterly jobs numbers the "gold standard" by which his accomplishments should be measured because they come from a census of nearly all employers. But the state has lagged behind the national average since July 2011, and the continuing bad numbers won't help Walker's talk about his jobs record while ramping up for an expected presidential bid.
Wisconsin added 35,759 private sector jobs during 2014, bringing Walker's four-year total to 129,154.
Walker promised in his first campaign for governor, and again in the 2012 recall, that by 2015 the state would add 250,000 jobs. Walker defended the promise as a bold goal, but has more recently focused on Wisconsin's unemployment rate dropping from 8.1 percent the month before he took office to 4.4 percent in April, along with other data, to argue the economy is stronger under his leadership.
"Wisconsin's economy is growing, more people are working, and we are moving in the right direction," Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in response to the latest numbers. "This is good news for Wisconsin workers and families. Governor Walker will continue investing in our priorities to move Wisconsin forward."
Democrats were quick pounce, as they have every time a jobs report shows Walker's short of his promise. Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said Walker is too distracted by his expected presidential run to focus on Wisconsin.
"Instead of focusing on creating jobs and stimulating our economy, Republicans have been focused on divisive social issues and paying back out-of-state special interest groups that support Gov. Walker's presidential campaign," Barca said in a statement.
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