The Milwaukee region lost more jobs than any metro area in the country from July 2011 to July 2012 and was among just a handful of big metros where employment declined, the U.S. Labor Department said Wednesday.
The numbers, however, are survey-based estimates that are necessarily imprecise and subject to revision.
It's not unusual for the increase or decrease in a metro area's job numbers to fall within the survey's margin of error -- meaning that the change isn't statistically significant.
The monthly federal estimates "have been shown to be volatile, unreliable and underreporting job totals for Wisconsin," John Dipko, communications director for the State Department of Workforce Development, said via email.
The variation between the monthly survey figures and the less timely but more comprehensive quarterly census of employment was a battle point in Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall election.
Generally speaking, the monthly numbers indicated jobs were declining while the quarterly figures showed the opposite.
Dipko noted that the most recent quarterly data, based on reports from 96% of Wisconsin employers, showed the state added more than 37,000 private-sector jobs between March 2011 and March 2012.
Including government employment, the gain was somewhat under 30,000.
The latest monthly data has the four-county metro Milwaukee area losing 6,000 jobs from July to July, a 0.7% decrease.
Among the 50 largest metro areas in employment, only Milwaukee, New Orleans, Providence and St. Louis showed year-over-year losses, the Labor Department reported.
The agency doesn't publish the margins of error for metro areas, so it's impossible to say whether Milwaukee's change in employment is statistically significant.
For Wisconsin as a whole, however, the estimate of 20,400 jobs lost from July to July falls within the margin of error and is not statistically significant.