MMAC economic dashboard picks up speed

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

Business activity indicators in the metro area posted strong results in November as 19 of 22 available indicators registered improvement over year-ago levels, according to a monthly report by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).

November’s 19 positives are up from the revised 17 improvements posted in October.

“Up until recently, the economic recovery in the metro area was marked by modest levels of nonfarm employment growth,” said Bret Mayborne, economic research director for the MMAC. “Over the past six months the average pace of job growth has ramped up considerably to some of the strongest gains posted in over 15 years (since 1998).”

Highlights of the report include:
• Nonfarm employment in the metro area averaged 857,200 in November, up 2.5 percent over year ago levels. November’s gain matches the average gain posted over the past six months and is over double the average pace of growth (up 0.9 percent) recorded in the recovery’s prior 44 months.
• Nine of ten major industry sectors recorded year-over-year job increases in November. The construction, mining and natural resource sector posted November’s largest employment gain, up 11.6 percent. Only the information sector, which was unchanged from one year ago, did not register a November year-over-year increase.
• Manufacturing indicators pointed upward. Manufacturing jobs grew for the sixth consecutive month (vs. year-ago levels) while a production worker’s workweek and average earnings levels expanded.

Recent job gains have translated into healthy improvements in unemployment indicators. Metro Milwaukee’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent in November, lower than the nation’s 5.5 percent rate but higher than the state’s 4.7 percent rate. November’s rate is down 1.5 percentage points from year-ago levels, the steepest year-over-year rate improvement posted since March,
2011.

The number of unemployed fell 20.5 percent from year-ago levels, this indicator’s largest decrease in the post-recession period. New unemployment compensation claims registered a similar decline, down 21.8 percent vs. one year-ago, to 3,906.

Broad-based employment growth was registered in November, with job gains posted in nine of ten major industry sectors. The construction, mining and natural resources sector posted the largest percentage increase, up 11.6 percent to 28,900. The financial activities sector recorded a small November increase, up 0.7 percent, this sector’s first year-over-year rise since October, 2008.

Other sectors posting year-over-year job gains include the professional and business services (up 4.9 percent), leisure & hospitality (up 4.4 percent), manufacturing (up 2.3 percent), education & health services (up 2.1 percent), trade, transportation & utilities (up 1.2 percent), other services (up 1.4 percent) and government (up 0.5 percent) sectors. Jobs in the information sector were unchanged from year-ago levels.

Taken as a whole, nonfarm employment in the metro area grew at a 2.5 percent pace in November (vs. year-ago levels) to 857,200, a net gain of 21,000 jobs. November’s metro increase ranks higher than both the national (up 2 percent) and state (up 2 percent) growth rates.

Manufacturing job growth was matched by gains in related hours and earnings indicators for manufacturing production workers. The length of a production worker’s workweek averaged 41.4 hours in November, up 0.5 percent from one year ago. Average weekly earnings for such workers rose 6.6 percent (to $826), while average hourly earnings increased 6.1 percent, to $19.95.

Local housing and real estate indicators tracked by the MMAC posted mixed results in November. Existing home sales in the metro area rose 1.7 percent to 920, this indicator’s third consecutive year-over-year increase. Mortgages registered in Milwaukee County numbered 1,555 in November, down 11.3 percent. November’s decline follows the 4.2 percent rise posted in October.

Metro area new-car registrations fell 11.6 percent in November to 1,986. November’s decline ranks as the sharpest percentage decrease posted over 2014’s first 11 months.

Air passenger totals at General Mitchell International Airport were unavailable at the time of this report.

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