With another 55,886 initial unemployment claims filed last week, Wisconsin has now seen nearly 393,000 claims filed in a five-week stretch, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The five-week total, which covers March 15 to April 18, is more than any 15-week stretch during the Great Recession.
While the increase in claims is dramatic, it is not entirely evenly distributed around the state. As the Wisconsin’s most populous county, it is no surprise Milwaukee County has the most initial claims over the last five weeks at 60,914. Dane County is second at 29,388 and Waukesha County is third at 22,539.
To get an idea of which counties were experiencing the largest jump in claims relative to the pre-coronavirus landscape, BizTimes looked at two other measures.
The first looked at the average number of claims during the first 11 weeks of the year in comparison to the average number of claims during the last five weeks. Even on the low end, Rusk and Taylor counties saw nearly triple the average number of claims compared to the baseline.
On the high end, Dane County saw more than 18 times the average number of claims, followed by La Crosse County at nearly 17 times and Ozaukee at more than 16.
Statewide, the average number of initial claims each week is about 11.5 times the average from the start of the year.
The second measure looked at the total number of claims filed in the last week as a percentage of total employment in March. Wisconsin’s labor force data for March saw little impact from the coronavirus response because of survey timing and the official unemployment rate actually decreased by a tenth to 3.4%.
At the low end, the number of claims in Pepin and Pierce counties still accounted for 6.4% of March employment. Statewide, 56 counties saw total claims equal to more than 10% of their employment.
The higher percentages generally came from counties in the northern, western and central parts of the state. Menominee was the highest at 20.3%, followed by Forest at 19.5%, Sawyer at 16.5%, Sauk at 16.4% and Trempealeu at 16.3%.
The nearly 393,000 claims filed statewide equal around 13.2% of March employment.
Combining the two metrics, Menominee, Sauk, Trempealeau, Forest and La Crosse are the five hardest hit counties in the state followed by Dane in sixth.
Milwaukee County was the hardest hit of the eight counties in the BizTimes coverage area with nearly 13 times the number of claims compared to the baseline and a total equal to 13.7% of March employment. Six of the eight counties were in the top half of counties statewide with the metrics combined.
Claims Filed 3/15 to 4/18
Increase in Weekly Average
Claims as a Percentage of March Employment
Statewide Unemployment Impact Rank
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