Wages are the bright spot in Wisconsin’s employment picture

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There has not been a lot to be excited about in Wisconsin’s jobs data recently.

Job growth has been sluggish with private sector employment increasing less than 1% year-over-year for the last 19 months.

The unemployment rate remains low at 3.3%, but that’s an increase of 0.5 percentage points since May. The state hasn’t seen its unemployment rate increase that quickly since 2009.

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Wisconsin’s workforce is also shrinking. The total number of people in the workforce has been down year-over-year every month for the last 18 months. The workforce participation rate is also declining down from its most recent peak of 68.5% in mid-2017 to 67.1% in October.

From its high point in August 2017, the Wisconsin workforce has dropped by 24,711. Only eight other states, including just one in the Midwest, have seen workforce declines over that period.

Wage growth, however, appears to be picking up again after slowing in the first half of the year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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In the last three months, Wisconsin’s average private sector hourly wage has increased an average of 2.83% year-over-year, compared to a 1.55% average gain for all of 2019. The average private sector hourly wage in October 2019 was $26.84, up 3.43% from the same time last year.

Last year was an even better year for wage growth as the state averaged a 4.87% increase year-over-year.

Wage gains have been taking place across industries, although goods-producing sectors have seen stronger growth, up 4.58% on average over the last three months compared to 2.12% in service sectors.

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Manufacturing, in particular, has seen strong wage growth, averaging a 5.09% increase the last three months.

The financial activities sector is the one area with wage declines, averaging a 0.54% drop in recent months and a 2.41% decline for the year.

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