Shrinking labor force helps push Wisconsin unemployment rate to record low

Private sector lost 3,900 jobs in April

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

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 2.8% in April, a record low for the state. Reaching that figure, however, was partially the result of having nearly 15,000 fewer people in the labor force than at the same time last year.

The number of people classified as unemployed in the state did reach a seasonally-adjusted record low of 88,100 in April, down 1,500 from March and 6,800 from April 2018.The reading is the lowest figure in data that goes back to 1976. The Department of Workforce Development released the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Thursday.

The official unemployment rate does not include people who have given up on looking for work, are marginally attached to the workforce or are employed part-time for economic reasons. Including those groups, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate averaged 5.7% from April 2018 to March 2019, according to BLS data.

Wisconsin has the seventh lowest rate in the country when using the fuller picture of unemployment.

Overall employment was up by 600 from March to April but declined 7,700 from April 2018. The result of lower unemployment and fewer people working was a drop in the labor force participation rate from 68.2% to 67.5%.

The unemployment and labor force data comes from a survey of households in the state. A separate survey of employers provides additional insight on which industries are gaining or losing jobs.

Total nonfarm payrolls in Wisconsin decreased by 3,100 from March to April, according to the workplace survey. The state’s private sector lost 3,900 jobs.

A seasonally adjusted decrease of 2,400 jobs in construction and a drop of 2,300 in leisure and hospitality primarily drove the downward shift. Wholesale and retail trade also saw a combined drop of 1,800 jobs.

The addition of 3,100 jobs in health care and social assistance helped offset the decrease.

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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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