Wisconsin production workers logged fewest hours in July since 2009

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Production workers in Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector averaged 39.7 hours per week in July, the lowest level for the month since 2009, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

It was also the first time since February 2014 that production workers logged an average of less than 40 hours per week. The average number of hours worked has dipped below 40 just four times since the start of 2011.

The good news for production workers is that their average hourly wage increased to $21.59 in July, up 5.8% from the same time last year. In the first seven months of 2019, production workers in Wisconsin are averaging a 4.2% year-over-year increase in hourly wages.

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The July hours worked number could be just a one-month dip below the 40-hour threshold, but it is the tenth straight month Wisconsin’s average has declined from the previous year.

In the past 12 months, Wisconsin has averaged a decrease of 1.14 hours compared to the prior year. The average decrease is 1.58 hours over the past six months. In both cases, Wisconsin has the sixth largest decrease among all states.

Thirty-seven states have averaged decreases in weekly hours in the past six months.

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The decrease in production is another sign of a slowdown in a manufacturing sector that has dealt with uncertainty from global trade tensions and a slowdown in some international markets. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell pointed to a lack of investment by the manufacturing sector as one reason the central bank decided to cut interest rates.

A survey earlier this year by the advisory firm Sikich suggested two-thirds of manufacturers are preparing for a recession.

Locally, the Marquette-ISM Report on Manufacturing has suggested the sector is shrinking in two of the past three months and has trended down over most of the last year.

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In July 2018, metro Milwaukee production workers averaged 43.4 hours per week, the highest July level since at least 2001.

Last month, the average number of hours dropped to 39.1, the lowest July level since 2009 and the first sub-40 month since October 2009. The 4.3-hour drop from last year was the largest year-over-year decline for the area in all BLS data going back to 2001.

Unlike the state as a whole, metro Milwaukee production workers are not seeing strong wage gains this year. The average wage in July was $22.43, down 3% from last year. For the first seven months of 2019, production workers in the area have averaged a 1.9% year-over-year decline in wages after averaging 11.4% and 3.9% increases in 2017 and 2018 respectively.




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