Wisconsin job growth lagged behind U.S. in 2018

Wage growth slightly ahead of rest of country

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

Wisconsin’s pace of private-sector job creation slowed in 2018 and lagged behind the country as a whole for the eighth consecutive year, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state added 17,536 jobs for the 12 months ending in December, an increase of 0.71% from the same period in 2017. The state’s average monthly job total in 2018 increased 24,475, an increase of 0.99%.

The United States grew private-sector employment 1.61% and 1.76% respectively on those two measures. Wisconsin has not outpaced national private sector job growth for a 12-month period since June 2011 and has not performed better over a calendar year since 2010.

Regardless of measure, Wisconsin ranks in the bottom half of states for job creation last year, including 39th for the calendar year and 34th when using annual averages.

Wisconsin’s job growth was led by the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, up 11.79% from December 2017 to December 2018. Other top gainers included construction, up 3.24%, transportation and warehousing, up 2.72%, professional and technical services, up 2.53%, educational services, up 2.47% and manufacturing, up 2.05%.

Top losing industries included mining and quarrying, down 6.37%, utilities, down 5.62%, management of companies, down 2.76%, administrative and waste services, down 2.21%, retail trade, down 1.74%, and agriculture, down 1.1%.

The data comes from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. It uses information from around 97% of employers and is generally considered more accurate than survey measures used to produce monthly employment estimates.

Wisconsin’s employers have lamented their inability to find potential employees. The state’s unemployment is currently at a record low of 2.8% and has not been at or above 4% since mid-2016.

The low-unemployment environment is benefiting employees with average weekly wages in Wisconsin up 3.63% across all of 2018, slightly better than the 3.38% wage growth for the country as a whole.

Wisconsin’s wage growth also nearly topped the country by a full percentage point in the fourth quarter and has outpaced the nation in 17 of the last 32 quarters.

In southeastern Wisconsin the jobs picture is a little less clear, although the region, like the state, lagged behind the country as a whole.

Using the annual average data, the Milwaukee 7 region was slightly ahead of the state, adding 9,896 jobs or 1.1% growth. Metro Milwaukee specifically, which includes Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties, was essentially even with the state at 1.02% growth.

The region’s top performing counties included Walworth, up 2.49%, Washington, up 2.37% and Racine, up 2.11%. Milwaukee County was up 1.11%

But comparing December 2017 to December 2018, Milwaukee County added just 1,662 jobs, a 0.38% increase. Job growth was slower across the region using just the one 12-month period instead of annual averages. The Milwaukee 7 region grew employment 0.58% while metro Milwaukee grew 0.55%.

Racine County was a bright spot still with employment up 2.3%.

Wage growth in the region was strongest in Kenosha and Waukesha counties, up an average of 6.46% and 4.9% respectively for the year. Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan and Washington all topped 3% while Milwaukee wages grew 2.69%.

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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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