MADISON, Wisconsin — Wisconsin ranked 37th in private sector job creation last year, lagging behind the national average, based on the latest numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Gov. Scott Walker has said voters should rely on the numbers, gathered from a survey of nearly every Wisconsin business, to measure how well he is doing on his signature 2010 campaign promise to add 250,000 private sector jobs in the state by the end of this year.
In 2013, the state added 28,141 private sector jobs for a growth rate of 1.2 percent. The national average was 2.1 percent.
Through the first three years of Walker's term, the state added slightly fewer than 92,000 private sector jobs. Taken together with monthly job numbers, which are less reliable than the quarterly figures released by BLS, there have been about 101,000 private sector jobs created in Walker's term through April. Walker's administration reported Thursday that the state lost 400 private sector jobs in May.
The governor points to those job creation numbers, which come after the state lost 133,000 jobs in the second term of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, as a sign that his policies are a success. The state's unemployment rate, 5.8 percent as of April, is also the lowest it's been since 2008, before the Great Recession.
"My goal isn't based on rankings," Walker said Thursday when asked about the numbers following an awards ceremony at the state Department of Military Affairs. "My goal is based on jobs, helping to put people to work ... it's pretty clear we're much better off today than we were four years ago. I think we'll be much better going forward four years from now if voters give me four more years to be governor of this state."
Still, Walker's Democratic opponent Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle Corp. executive, has hammered Wisconsin's economic performance under Walker, citing its job growth compared with other states.
Burke called the latest figures "simply unacceptable."
"Wisconsin has everything we need to be a thriving, top ten economy, but under Walker we're falling behind," she said in an email statement.
Wisconsin was 35th in the previous BLS report covering the 12 months ending in September. The next report, covering job growth through March, is set to be released on Sept. 18.
The ranking of 37th for private sector job growth in 2013 comes after Wisconsin was 36th in 2012 and 35th in 2011.
Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP .
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.