Wisconsin saw no private sector job growth in September

Wisconsin’s private sector employment remained essentially flat in September as job gains in the manufacturing sector were more than offset by losses in educational services.

The state’s unemployment rate also remained at 3.9% for the sixth straight month while the labor force participation rate improved by a tenth to 66.6%.

The labor force participation rate has steadily increased from the start of the year when it was at 65.5%. The state’s seasonally adjusted labor force has grown by nearly 57,700. Excluding a one-month spike in September 2020, it is at its highest level since May 2018.

But the story of the September jobs data for Wisconsin is the lack of jobs growth. Private sector employment was down by 100 and overall nonfarm employment was flat. Wisconsin’s private sector employment is at 2,488,900, a little more than 96% of its February 2020 pre-pandemic level.

“We are getting there but we’re not quite there yet,” said Scott Hodek, section chief for the Department of Workforce Development Office of Economic Advisors.

It may be too early to see any job growth coming from the ending of enhanced unemployment benefits. Many employers have pointed to the program as a reason employees aren’t returning to the workforce. However, the program ended in early September and the survey for the monthly data was conducted the week of Sept. 12.

Hodek said during a call with reporters there also haven’t been significant employment gains in states where the benefit ended earlier.

At the same time, he acknowledged the challenges created by the tight labor market.

“In looking at the data, it appears to me the tight labor market is the biggest issue in terms of unmet demand,” Hodek said.

The state’s manufacturing industry was a bright spot with the nondurable goods sector adding 2,800 jobs and the durable goods sector adding 1,300. Manufacturing is now back to its pre-pandemic levels and the nondurable goods portion of the industry is at its highest level since 2002 with more than 200,000 jobs.

The financial activities industry in Wisconsin also added 900 jobs, spurred by the addition of 1,700 positions in real estate, rental and leasing.

The accommodation and food service sector also continued its rebound from the pandemic, adding 1,000 positions. Leisure and hospitality overall added 1,400 jobs with arts, entertainment and recreation adding 400.

But those gains were offset by the loss of 4,900 jobs in the state’s educational services sector. Retail trade also lost 900 jobs, transportation, warehousing and utilities lost 500, and the information sector lost 600.

The loss of jobs in the educational services sector may partially be a function of seasonal adjustments made to the data. The non-adjusted data show a gain of 3,300 jobs from August to September. Essentially the sector may not have hired up as much as it typically would have. Hodek said he didn’t want to speculate on why but pointed to the possibility of more virtual schooling as one reason.

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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