MMAC economic survey loses some steam

The economic trend in southeastern Wisconsin was mixed in April, according to the latest monthly report issued by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).

Fifteen of 23 April indicators improved over one year ago, down marginally from March’s 16 positives. April’s total marks the smallest number of upwardly pointing indicators in 11 months

“The pace of overall job growth improved from the 0.4 percent year-over-year gain registered in March to April’s 1.4 percent increase,” said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s economic research director. “Yet job growth was uneven with five major industry sectors showing year-over-year gains with an equal number registering employment losses.”

Highlights of the report include:

* Employment in the metro area averaged 848,900 in April, a 1.4 percent increase from April, 2014. April’s percentage gain marks the strongest year-over-year growth posted in the past six months (since October, 2014).

* Among major industry sectors posting April year-over-year job increases, the business &professional services sector (up 4.4 percent) registered the strongest increase. Conversely, the information sector recorded the sharpest decline (down 2.1 percent).

* Worker earnings gains were registered for manufacturing production workers. Average weekly earnings for such workers rose 5.7 percent over year-ago levels while average hourly earnings increased 6 percent.

* Sharp declines continue in metro area unemployment indicators. The number of unemployed fell 20.9 percent (to 37,900) vs. year-ago levels, this indicator’s 16th consecutive month of double-digit decline. New unemployment compensation claims fell 21.5 percent vs. year-ago levels to 4,207. Metro Milwaukee’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for April fell to 4.7 percent, the first-time the local unemployment rate has been under 5 percent in six and one-half years (since October, 2008). Metro Milwaukee’s April rate ranks below the 5.1 percent recorded for the nation as a whole but ranks higher than Wisconsin’s 4.4 percent rate.

* The metro area added 11,600 jobs in April (up 1.4 percent) vs. year-ago levels, pushing job totals to 848,900. April’s gain ranks as the strongest posted over 2015’s first four months and follows smaller 0.4 percent and 0.7 percent increases registered in March and February respectively.

* Gains continued in local area housing and real estate indicators tracked by the MMAC. Existing home sales rose 15.5 percent (to 1,323), this indictor’s seventh increase in eight months. Mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County numbered 2,505 for the month, a 37.9 percent increase. April’s gain follows the 51.4 percent rise posted in March.

* New-car registrations fell 9 percent in April, to 3,083. April’s decline comes on the heels of an 8.9 percent increase in March and marks the first year-over-year decline in registrations in five months.

* Air passenger usage of Mitchell International Airport rose 1.9 percent in April to 586,292 passengers. April’s gain marks its first year-over-year increase in eight months.

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