After three months of relatively flat job growth in the late summer and early fall, Wisconsin added more than 9,000 private sector jobs in each of the last two months of the year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The state, however, has also seen a sharp slowdown in wage growth.
In December, average weekly wages for private sector jobs increased 1.6 percent from the same time in 2017. The change represents an increase of $13.70 to $877.97 per week.
December’s increase is the largest increase in the last three months. In the first nine months of the year, the state averaged an increase of nearly 5.6 percent. In each of the first three quarters of the year, Wisconsin ranked in the top 10 for wage growth. But the state's average for the last three months ranks 42nd in the country.
Wisconsin did add a seasonally adjusted 9,100 private-sector jobs from November to December. November’s estimated gain of 9,900 jobs was also revised up by 900 to a gain of 10,800.
Caleb Frostman, secretary of the state Department of Workforce Development, called the job gains "welcome news as Wisconsin's economy continues to perform nicely, and with an unemployment rate of 3 percent, many Wisconsinites are feeling the positive effects of a growing economy."
As in November, last month’s gains were driven by the leisure and hospitality sector,
which increased employment by 4,700. The sector has added 10,400 jobs in the last two months, according to the latest data, and now employs 295,200 people in the state. It also had an average weekly wage of $319.07 in December.
The state’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 3 percent. Labor force participation, however, declined by 0.2 percentage points to 68.2 percent. In October, the labor force participation rate was 68.4.
The decline represents a seasonally-adjusted drop in the state’s labor force of 14,900 people. The national labor force participation rate has increased from 62.9 percent to 63.1 percent over the same period.
Private-sector employment increased 44,900 during 2018 in Wisconsin, a 1.76 percent increase that was the 26th largest gain in the country.
Last year also represented the best year of job growth in Wisconsin since 2014, when employment was up 1.82 percent.
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