Manufacturing Odds & Ends

MMAC data shows stagnant local economy
For the sixth consecutive month, less than half of the monthly business activity indicators tracked by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) showed improvement. Six of 19 available metro area business activity indicators pointed upward in April, up slightly from March’s revised five improvements.

"Signs of improvement in the local economy have been limited in recent months, suggesting that more of the same may be likely in the near term," said Bret Mayborne, economic research director for the MMAC. "Nonetheless, a sharp downturn in the number of unemployed – this indicator’s first decline in over one year – gives some cause for optimism."

Highlights of the report include:

  • Job totals continued to move downward. April employment levels averaged 849,600 in April, down 0.4 percent from year-ago levels. April’s decline surpasses the 0.2-percent decrease posted in March (vs. March, 2007) and marks the sixth consecutive month of year-over-year decline.

  • Four of 10 major industry sectors registered April job gains (vs. one year ago), while six posted declines. The largest percentage increase was posted in the educational & health services sector (up 1.8 percent over year-ago levels). Conversely, a 1.8-percent job decline was posted in the manufacturing sector – the largest decrease registered.

  • The number of unemployed declined significantly vs. year-ago levels, pushing the unemployment rate below both state and national levels. Unemployment indicators for April were mixed. The number of unemployed fell 19.6 percent vs. year-ago levels, its first fall in over one year (since March 2007).

  • Conversely, new unemployment compensation claims increased 2 percent in April (vs. April, 2007), this indicator’s seventh increase in the past eight months. For the first time in 13 months, metro Milwaukee’s unemployment rate improved from year-ago levels. April’s seasonally unadjusted jobless rate of 4.3 percent fell from the 5.3 percent rate posted one year ago. Metro Milwaukee’s April rate ranked lower than both the state’s 4.4 percent and the nation’s 4.8 percent unemployment rates.

  • The value of signed construction contracts, as reported by F.W. Dodge for March, was $104.4 million, up 19.9 percent from March, 2007.

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