Last week the office of Gov. Scott Walker put out a press release (PDF) crowing about "the surge in new businesses" since he took office. It said new business formations totaled 9,553 in the first three months of this year, compared to 7,603 for the first quarter of 2010, a 25% jump.
"The first quarter new business filings are welcome news," said Walker, "and as these new businesses take root and grow, they will add jobs to our economy."
Exactly two hours later the office issued a correction (PDF): "THIS RELEASE WAS BASED ON DATA SUPPLIED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT'S OFFICE OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS. AFTER RELEASE THEY HAVE REVISED THEIR NUMBERS. THE NEW NUMBERS DO NOT REFLECT A SIGNIFICANT UPTICK IN NEW BUSINESS FORMATIONS. PLEASE DISREGARD THIS RELEASE."
What exactly do the revised numbers show? It's not an easy question to answer.
John Dipko, a spokesperson for DWD, says the incorrect numbers came from the state Department of Financial Institutions, which was "reviewing how this particular statistic is complied."
Eric Knight, a spokesperson for DFI, says the error happened because an employee who provided numbers to DWD mistyped: "It was human error on this end." He says the correct total for new business entries tracked by DFI in the first quarter of 2011 is 8,756.
Wait a minute. This revised figure still seems to show a "significant uptick" from 2010 -- not the 25% originally claimed, but an impressive 9.3%. Why would Walker dismiss this?
That's because there was also a problem with the comparison data. The actual tally for new businesses reported to DFI during the first quarter of 2010, Knight says, was 8,763. And that means the rate between these two periods is "basically flat."