Walker: Wisconsin reports net gain of 9,500 jobs

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Wisconsin added 9,500 jobs last month, in part because of a renewed focus on drawing tourists to the state, Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday.

The state added 12,900 jobs in the private sector but lost 3,400 government jobs in June, according to seasonally adjusted numbers released by the state Department of Workforce Development. The net gain of 9,500 jobs accounts for more than half the 18,000 net jobs created across the nation during the month.

The governor credited the state's numbers to "a rebirth of tourism" following broad efforts to publicize Wisconsin's state fairs, ethnic festivals and sporting events.

"Tourism is more than a $12 billion industry in the state of Wisconsin," he told reporters in Milwaukee. "This is about putting people to work."

He said he didn't have details on which specific industries gained jobs. However, the Department of Workforce Development confirmed that almost half the private-sector growth was in the leisure and hospitality industry. There were 6,200 jobs created in that sector last month, and 3,300 more jobs than in June of last year.

A reporter asked whether the new jobs were seasonal and would be gone in several months. Walker replied that some were summer jobs but that an unspecified number would carry over into subsequent months.

"You certainly have a summer blitz when it comes to lakes and our other attractions, but you come back in the fall for hunting and you come back in the winter for snowmobiling and skiing," he said.

When asked if the new jobs pay livable wages Walker said the job numbers released Thursday were sorted only by industry, not income. He added that his focus has always been to attract well-paying jobs.

Walker was joined at his news conference by Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett. She said Walker's budget increased the department's funding by 20 percent, allocating an additional $2.5 million toward attracting visitors from other states.

"We ran a $3 million marketing campaign this summer," she said, "and I think today with this announcement we are seeing the results in a big way."

She said some of the new jobs were year-round positions at popular resorts.

Even though Wisconsin added nearly 10,000 jobs in June, the state's unemployment rate actually nudged upward for the month to 7.6 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the previous month. That's because the job numbers and employment numbers come from two separate surveys, DWD spokesman John Dipko said in an email.

The jobs number comes from workplace data, while the unemployment rate is based on a survey of households, he said.

Unemployment figures encompass Wisconsin residents who are available for work and actively seeking jobs.

The state Democratic party said the preliminary job numbers look promising, but party chairman Mike Tate said it was important to know specifically what types of jobs were being created.

"Will these jobs support Wisconsin families or will they bolster the profits of corporations that benefit from the downward pressure on wages and benefits that comes at the hands of Scott Walker's attack on collective bargaining?" he said in a statement.

The state's unemployment rate has hovered around 7.4 percent for the first five months of the year. The state figure has generally been about 1.5 percentage points better than the national rate. That trend continued last month as the U.S. unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points to 9.2 percent.

The governor also weighed in Thursday on a legislative impasse over a state bill extending unemployment benefits. The bill authorizes a 13-week extension of benefits, but the Senate version does away with a one-week waiting period before benefits can start while the Assembly version reinstates the delay.

The bill must pass both chambers in identical form before it goes to Walker for his consideration.

"My hope is we can find a way to work between the houses and get that passed as quickly as possible," said Walker, who favors the waiting period. "With or without the delay we have to have the extension."

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Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report from Madison, Wis.

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Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.

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