Milwaukee County job count yet to reach pre-recession level

Wage growth lags behind rest of the state

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:08 am

It has been more than a decade since the start of the Great Recession, but there are still nearly 9,700 fewer jobs in Milwaukee County than there were in December 2007.

The county has added 22,560 jobs covered by unemployment insurance since the end of 2009, the lowest December employment level, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

In December 2007, which the National Bureau of Economic Research defines as the start of the Great Recession, Milwaukee County had 503,200 jobs. At the end of 2018, the county had 493,515 jobs, a decline of 1.9% from 2007.

By comparison, the rest of Wisconsin has increased employment by 4.1% since 2007. Including Milwaukee, employment is up 3%, the 35th largest increase in the country.

Five states – New Mexico, Mississippi, Connecticut, West Virginia and Wyoming – are yet to return to December 2007 employment levels.

Utah, North Dakota, Texas, Colorado and Washington have seen the largest percentage increase in employment during the same period.

Wisconsin’s other large counties have all increased employment. Dane County is up more than 35,000 from 2007 levels, an increase of 10.2%. Waukesha County is up by 7,900 or 3.3% and Brown County is up by more than 9,700 or 6.4%.

Dane County had surpassed its 2007 employment by the end of 2012 while the entire state, along with Brown and Waukesha counties, reached that level by the end of 2015.

The QCEW is based on the tabulation of employees covered by unemployment insurance programs and is generally considered more accurate than the survey-based estimates used to provide monthly employment updates. The data, however, are delayed by five to six months. The BLS released data last week for all covered employees at the state and large county level.

Detailed industry data is not yet available through the end of 2018, but earlier releases show the manufacturing industry accounted for a large portion of the loss in the private sector. Manufacturing employment in the county was down more than 9,300 jobs or 15.4% from September 2007 to September 2018. The construction, information and financial activity sectors have all also seen double-digit percentage decreases in employment over the same period.

Health care and social assistance is one area where the county has gained jobs since 2007, up 13,400 or 16.6% through the end of 2017. Accommodation and food service has added 4,200 jobs, an 11.8% increase.

Milwaukee County’s average weekly wages are also lagging behind the rest of the state. In the fourth quarter of 2007, the average wage in the county was $900 per week. In the fourth quarter of 2018 it was $1,083, an increase of 0.6% after adjusting for inflation. The average wage statewide is up 7.4% after adjusting for inflation while Dane County is up 12.4% and Waukesha is up 6.4%.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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