DIGGING DEEPER: Wisconsin has lost 45,589 manufacturing jobs sin - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

DIGGING DEEPER: Wisconsin has lost 45,589 manufacturing jobs since 2006, a decline of 9%

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin has consistently lagged the rest of the nation in terms of job creation since the Great Recession and one need look no further than the state's second-largest employment sector to see why.

The latest Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows modest private sector job growth for Wisconsin from September 2015 to September 2016, but not in manufacturing.
    
According to the QCEW, which surveys 95 percent of employers, Wisconsin added nearly 25,608 jobs overall, but lost 3,996 manufacturing jobs over that one-year period.
    
That trend is even more pronounced over the past decade.

Since September 2006, overall private sector job growth for Wisconsin stands at two percent, but manufacturing employment has declined by nine percent - accounting for a loss of 45,589 jobs.
    
Governor Walker explained the loss of those jobs by referencing a company he recently visited that had outsourced twelve jobs just a few years ago.

"The twelve went overseas and - a year or two ago - they brought back through automation for the three. Now you can look at that and say, well that's a net loss of nine, but I say it's a gain of three, because those twelve were gone when they were no longer competitive. And so now, we have to find ways to be competitive again. Part of it's automation," said Gov. Walker.

While some may quibble with Walker's framing of that situation, it does capture the problem facing Wisconsinites who make their living in manufacturing.

The nation as a whole has lost about 13 percent of its manufacturing jobs over the past ten years, compared to nine percent in Wisconsin.

But the state's loss has hurt much more, because nearly 19 percent of all jobs in Wisconsin are in manufacturing, compared to just 10 percent nationwide.

"I don't know that some of those jobs are necessarily coming back," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). "I guess I'm hopeful that with some of the work that we're doing at the state level, along with just the economy coming back, its gonna result in some of that manufacturing coming back to the state. But, I don't know that there's any guarantee right now that you're gonna get 30,000 or 40,000 jobs back."
    
But Democrats say bringing those jobs back is exactly what Republican leaders like Fitzgerald promised when they passed a massive tax credit for manufacturers in 2011. That credit, which took full effect in 2016, cost the state roughly $767 million in from 2015-17.

Another $654 million is projected to be awarded to state manufacturers from 2017-19.

"The reality is this was a pretty bad bet with an awful lot of money, if your goal was to increase employment," said Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh. "I think we need to do everything we can to support the industry that we have in this state, especially those that are labor intensive and keep the jobs here. But...the global trends are what they are."

Rep. Hintz and other Democrats are urging for a repeal of that manufacturers tax credit, so the lost revenue could be used in other areas of the state budget.

Sen. Fitzgerald said such a step would be a mistake.

"It doesn't always equate," Sen. Fitzgerald said of tax credits and job creation. "But, the tax credit, to abandon it right now would be premature and would probably send the wrong message at a pretty critical time when it come to manufacturing in this state."

While the gloomy jobs numbers persist, Gov. Walker points to a silver lining - wages.

While the number of manufacturing jobs are down, income is up for people working in the field. Wages increased by six percent over the last year, as the work continues to become more specialized.

Gov. Walker goes back to the story about those workers brought back to operate automated equipment.

"The three that work on that particular job, as an example, get paid a whole lot more than the twelve did before. So wages go up, even though the numbers go down," said Gov. Walker.

But even there, Wisconsin lags the rest of the Midwest.

The state's $1,071 average weekly wage for private-sector manufacturing is the lowest in the region, with the exception of Nebraska's $943.

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