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Give us proof

But what about us? That’s our question following President’s Trump’s State of the Union address last week where he declared an American economic renaissance featuring monthly job creation, wage growth, a booming stock market and record unemployment among historically disadvantaged groups, including blacks, Latinos, women, the undereducated and the disabled.

Said the president:

Three years ago, we launched the great American comeback. Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results. Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confi dence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again! America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise, and America’s future is blazing bright.

The national statistics rattled off by Trump capture the redhot economy in states like Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Florida, all of which have seen over six percent job growth during the Trump presidency, but they fail to tell the story here in Wisconsin or, more pointedly, in Marathon County.

Wisconsin, which has a manufacturing sector in official recession, can boast merely a 1.5 percent increase in jobs since Trump’s election in 2016. More locally, Marathon County has, like other counties in Wisconsin, enjoyed full employment, but job creation here has been far from robust. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) reports this past year total jobs in Marathon County increased a mere 675, less than one percent above the 2018 level. The county, the agency said, did increase manufacturing jobs in 2019 by a notable 513 or 3 percent, but, at the same time, lost a significant number of jobs in the natural resources and professional business service categories.

The problem here is that, even with full employment, county wage growth has stagnated.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that worker wages in the United States have increased three percent during the Trump presidency and, after inflation, by 0.8 percent. Wisconsin’s wage growth over the past year, 2.9 percent, follows this national trend. Many Marathon County workers, however, lost ground to state averages this past year by as much as three percent. These were workers in the information, professional business service, public administration, construction, manufacturing and leisure and hospitality sectors.

A reason for the slack increase in wage growth may be automation. The DWD reports that 62 percent of jobs in northcentral Wisconsin can be automated, well above the national average of 55 percent. A second reason could be changes in the economy. For instance, DWD projects a loss of 1.2 percent of manufacturing jobs in a 10-county northcentral Wisconsin region through 2026.

Without argument, the central Wisconsin economy is vibrant. Restaurant parking lots are full, carpenters and plumbers are busy and you see plenty of new, fancy trucks and cars on the road. This is not the economy of 2010.

At the same time, we know parts of the local economy are struggling. Dairy farmers and the hardwood industry are having real problems.

We, then, prefer to measure the health of the economy based on government statistics, not casual observation.

By this measure, the Trump economy in central Wisconsin is lagging. Yes, the economy has turned around since the Great Recession, but we are not seeing the growth that other states have. Wisconsin ranks 45th out of 50 states for job growth during Trump’s presidency.

We are open to Trump’s message that we are living in economic glory days. But, frankly, we, here in central Wisconsin, need more. Mr. President, show us the proof.