MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The federal office that tracks employment data for the states is considering changes in how it handles monthly estimates after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker criticized the current practice, according to a letter released by the agency Thursday.
The reliability of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly data, which show unemployment rates and how many jobs have been created, was a major issue during Walker's recall election in the spring.
The governor was criticized for releasing quarterly figures before the BLS could vet the numbers that showed a more positive job picture in 2011 than previously reported. The quarterly numbers are based on a census of nearly all employers in the state, while the monthly figures come from a survey of roughly 3.5 percent of businesses.
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson last week sent a letter to the BLS asking it to change how it updates the monthly data so more of the quarterly census information is included.
On Thursday, Newson released a response letter from BLS Acting Commissioner John Galvin dated Tuesday that says the agency is looking at making changes consistent with what Newson had requested. Galvin wrote that research is ongoing and a final decision should be made within weeks.
"We encourage and stand ready to assist the BLS in making changes that will result in more accurate, reliable labor market data to help employers, job seekers and other individuals make well-informed economic decisions," Newson said in a statement.
Walker said in a statement that he was also encouraged by the BLS response.
Based on the BLS' monthly data figures, Wisconsin lost about 22,700 private sector jobs in 2011. But when the quarterly data was released last year, it showed the state gained 27,811 private sector jobs. That is a difference of 50,511.
Walker pledged in 2010, and again during the recall, that 250,000 private sector jobs would be added in Wisconsin by 2015. Based on the monthly estimates for 2012 and the more accurate data from 2011, Wisconsin has added 45,315 jobs since Walker took office.
With that pace, 120,804 jobs will be created by 2015.