Wednesday, April 17, 2013

MacIver Lied!

By Jeff Simpson

Who Knew

That’s why an item posted April 9, 2013 by the MacIver Institute caught our attention.
The Madison-based group, which publishes items supportive of conservative causes -- items that are often then cited by other conservatives -- included this headline: "Gov. Scott Walker more than halfway to 250,000 jobs goal."
That’s a much larger number of jobs created under Walker than we’ve ever heard -- even from the governor himself.
In December 2012, Walker said the state had created "just under 100,000 jobs" since he took office. We rated that statement Pants on Fire.
Walker had combined full and partial year data sets from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages compiled by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. His staff explained that he was using a "raw number."
But state experts and the governor’s own staff have long said that while the quarterly census is more accurate than monthly measures, the census data should only be viewed in one-year blocks. That is, January to January, or July to July. In other words, you can’t combine partial years of census data with full years to create a running total, due to major seasonal fluctuations in the workforce.
Here is what Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie told us when we asked about job numbers in the summer of 2012: "Please don’t, as John Koskinen, an economist at DOR would say, compare February temperatures to July."
When we asked MacIver  to show us their math, spokesman Nick Novak responded:
"We used Bureau of Labor Statistics QCEW figures for each month from January 2011 to September 2012 (the most recent month available).  To get to the number of 137,372, we simply subtracted the January 2011 jobs number from the September 2012 jobs number."
Novak provided a link to a BLS report that showed the two numbers.
But, this isn’t just a simple math problem. MacIver made two critical errors in their calculations.
Starting point
Walker took office at the beginning of January 2011. MacIver used the number for the end of January 2011. To properly measure the governor’s promise, you need to start with the number of jobs that existed at the start of his term. That is a difference of 65,401 jobs.  
Here’s how it plays out the way the MacIver Institute calculated the numbers.
January 2011 census number: 2,205,584
September 2012 census number: 2,342,956
Increase: 137,372.
Here’s how it plays out with the December 2010 number.
December 2010 census number: 2,270,985
September 2012 census number: 2,342,956
Increase: 71,971
In summary: MacIver’s math nearly doubles Walker job count because it started counting one month later. In effect, they used a lower starting point, which makes the growth seem larger -- by 65,401 -- than it really is.
And even that is a bad number.
Apples to oranges
There’s a second, more important -- and more familiar -- problem. Like Walker in December,  MacIver failed to line up a year-to-year comparison. It measured February temperatures against July.
What’s more, the item itself notes that Koskinen, the state economist, told them they should not combine the data sets in this manner:
While Koskinen called the numbers "literally true" the article goes on to note: "Koskinen said economists typically use the same month from different years to avoid seasonal variations in employment."
Their rating of course is

The MacIver Institute posted an item that says Wisconsin has 137,372 more private sector jobs than when Gov. Scott Walker first took office, meaning that Walker is more than halfway to his goal of 250,000 jobs.
The jobs promise will be the No. 1 yardstick used to measure Walker’s performance as governor.
But the conservative group’s number is wrong, two times over.
MacIver started with the wrong month of data. That alone nearly doubled the number of jobs they claim were created under Walker.
They compounded their error by combining full and partial years of data -- even though they (like the governor himself) were told not to do so.

Pants on Fire.


  1. MacIver Lied?!?!? What a shock!

  2. Good grief. The MacIver people sound like typical Repubs who don't understand why you have to use seasonal variations to look at jobs numbers and are suspicious of seasonal adjustments, as if somebody is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

    Every January, the brainwashed GOP sympathizers on the national level go nuts gloating about how many jobs have been lost in January... Well, duh. It happens every January. Over two million jobs are lost nationally as holiday help is laid off after Christmas.

    BLS jobs numbers are queried as of the week containing the 12th of the month, not the last day of the month. Walker took office January 3rd, 2011. Employment numbers for January represent the week after he took office. Therefore, January 2011 numbers are probably the best starting point for Walker as he was only in office one week when those numbers were gathered.

    But the biggest issue is using data that is not seasonally adjusted.. Such data is meaningless. Statisticians are on the government payrolls to make sure that seasonal adjustments are adequate to give all of us the best estimation of how we are doing in jobs from month to month without waiting for a whole year to go by.

    Just looking at the latest "official" seasonally adjusted jobs numbers: Wisconsin lost 7,000 jobs over the past year, and 24,000 jobs over the last month, since March.

    The problem is that wayyy too many people in this country have no idea of the basics of job counting and can be convinced of anything.

  3. MacIver is just another right-wing funded, radical, extremist organization. As a citizen of Wisconsin, I find them offensive. They lied? Doesn't surprise me in the least.