Last updated on March 25th, 2022 at 06:18 pm
Wisconsin added 20,700 private sectors jobs in February, the largest one-month jump outside of the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 shutdowns in data that goes back to 1990, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Workforce Development.
Even with the strong month of growth, Wisconsin is still 50,000 jobs behind its pre-pandemic level in the monthly survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“It’s a healthy number, it’s a nice number,” said Dennis Winters, chief economist at DWD, acknowledging the gain was perhaps a little better than expected.
He pointed to 7% growth in U.S. GDP in the fourth quarter as a sign of a growing economy that would suggest this kind of job growth is possible.
“There’s a basis to have these kinds of increases in employment,” Winters said.
The job gains come in the same month the state’s unemployment rate dipped to a preliminary rate of 2.9%, tying a record low from 2018. January’s unemployment rate was 3%.
While individual firms may be able to find new employees from other companies, at a macro level, Winters said the state faces a lack of people in the workforce.
“This is an overall bodies problem,” he said. “Without enough bodies, somebody is going to be without a worker.”
Adding more people to the workforce could come through immigration, a subject with plenty of debate surrounding it, or reducing barriers for those who are chronically unemployed. Winters said those issues could range from transportation to housing to skills to availability of care for dependents.
He also noted the department is tracking national data that suggests a decrease in people holding multiple jobs or part-time positions. Potential cause for the drop included people staying home to take care of children, increasing wages leading to people only needing one job or older workers leaving from part-time jobs they held, Winters said.
He also said the job gains from January to February were generally across industries.
“I think it’s just a continuation or maybe an acceleration of an economy growing,” Winters said.
The industries with particularly strong job growth in Wisconsin from January included durable goods manufacturing, up 3,800 jobs, professional and business services, up 4,200, and accommodation and food service, up 5,100.