NEWS & DOCUMENTARIES | HERE AND NOW TRANSCRIPT

Frederica Freyberg:

So as we mentioned, the latest preliminary jobs numbers show Wisconsin added 12,500 jobs in December but lost more than 20,000 from December 2010 to December 2011. Adding in these new numbers from January, we're up about 6,000 jobs. Here was a different perspective on the jobs challenge before us is the director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Joel Rogers. Thanks for being here.

Joel Rogers:

Adding those two– Hi. Adding those two numbers, if you take negative 20 and add 12 to it, we're down at negative 8. We’re about 8,000 down on those numbers from when Governor Walker took office. That's where we are.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so --

Joel Rogers:

But look, I mean, it's great that we got these new jobs. It's terrific. We like jobs. Keeps people busy and off the streets and, you know, otherwise occupied. If they're paying people anything, if they're decent jobs, gives them some self-respect and the ability to take care of dependents. Everything else being equal, jobs is good. But we got-- the big news I think is the one that you've been covering for a while. We've got this huge job deficit, 220,000, we’re now around 220,000 we need to make up, even counting these new numbers in to get back to pre-recession levels.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so what do you think we should be doing that we're not doing about this?

Joel Rogers:

Oh, so many things. Where could we begin? That we're not doing to create decent jobs in Wisconsin? Well, we're cutting back for assists of all sorts on people. We're cutting back on a bunch of education. Those are long-term things that affect either their well-being, short term, or their ability in the long term. We’re making it more difficult for people to organize rather than less difficult. We still haven't mapped the state in terms of its competitive capacity. Something we’ve been arguing for a long time. We're basically flying blind, I think, basically on economic development in the state.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, the WMC, the Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce whom we just spoke with, says the numbers don't match reality in their view. They say the governor is landing new jobs across the state and job creators are saying that they sorely need skilled labor to fill positions.

Joel Rogers:

Who are the job creators? Business people?

Frederica Freyberg:

Businesses and manufacturers.

Joel Rogers:

Do you actually call all businesses now job creators? It shows the declension of public media in Wisconsin. Okay, but these business people say there are a lot of jobs coming? Great. Let's see them. That would be terrific. I don't really follow the WMC's guide to reality because they've often said that Wisconsin is the most heavily regulated state, most heavily taxed state and I've had endless discussions with WMC about here are the facts, here's what you're saying, will you change what you're saying given the facts and usually the answer has been no. Why bother? We're pushing a political line. That said, I'd be delighted if in fact we were getting more jobs coming into Wisconsin. And I think we are now. It's just we're in a very, very deep hole.

Frederica Freyberg:

I know that your research, and you partnered with Department of Workforce Development on this, has identified more than 700,000 Wisconsinites who need additional skills to either get a job or get a better job.

Joel Rogers:

Right.

Frederica Freyberg:

How well is the state positioned to make a dent in that number?

Joel Rogers:

We've got a great public education system, in the state. In theory, we would be able to do that. It's just a matter of determination, political leadership, will, and I guess that's political leadership and determination. And then getting the people connected to the schools. There's a lot we could do to expand enrollment, everywhere from the University of Wisconsin on down. At some point you got limits in terms of your capacity to service that enrollment. You know, it's an investment we could in theory make. It will pay off.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, Governor Walker says that confidence is way up in Wisconsin, that two years ago 10% of our employers thought the state was headed in the right direction. Today he says 94% say Wisconsin is headed in the right direction. Are we seeing that in the latest job numbers, do you suppose?

Joel Rogers:

It's possible. It's a poll just of employers?

Frederica Freyberg:

That's what he says, employers.

Joel Rogers:

Yeah. Well, the typical employer would like to reduce their taxes and have fewer labor standards because that would further reduce their costs. And so if that's the case, if that's what the governor is doing, which is what he's doing, I can see a lot of employers being for that. I've talked to a lot of business people who are very concerned about where the state's going. I know they’re the remaining 6% of employers other than those. But I think it's clear the state is beginning to pick up some jobs. I don't think that has a lot to do with the governor one way or the other.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. We need to leave it there. Joel Rogers, thanks a lot.

Joel Rogers:

Sure. Thank you.

Here and Now
 

Center on Wisconsin Strategy's Joel Rogers on jobs
Friday, March 9, 2012

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Joel Rogers, director at UW-Madison's Center on Wisconsin Strategy, weighs in on the state's latest jobs report.


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