Wisconsin unemployment claims trending in opposite direction of the U.S.

Initial unemployment claims in Wisconsin have averaged a nearly 12.6% weekly increase for the last four weeks, the worst four-week stretch for the state since April 2020, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The increase comes during a period when initial claims have been trending down nationally. Claims were down 39,000 for the week ending April 17 to 547,000, the lowest level since March 2020. The latest data, released Thursday, pulled the national four-week average down 27,750 to 651,000.

Wisconsin’s lowest week for initial claims in the recent period was in mid-to-early March, the same time when data is collected to generate unemployment rate and job growth data. That data showed the state’s unemployment rate was unchanged from February at 3.8%.

Since then, claims have trended up, including two weeks of increases around 10.5% and then two weeks of increases around 14.5%.

The state had nearly 19,000 initial claims last week.

County-level data from the Department of Workforce Development show 33 of the state’s 72 counties have averaged larger increases than the state as a whole.

Southeastern Wisconsin, covering the Milwaukee 7 region and Sheboygan County, has gone from around 4,630 claims to about 8,450 with an average weekly increase of 16.3%.

Metro Milwaukee, which covers Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, has added around 3,000 weekly claims to reach nearly 6,550 with an average weekly increase of 16.9%.

The metro area has gone from accounting for 30% of the state’s claims in early March to 35% last week. Similarly, southeastern Wisconsin has gone from 39% of claims to about 45%.

Milwaukee County, specifically, has averaged a 17.5% weekly increase to reach about 4,870 initial claims. Waukesha County has averaged a 13.9% increase to reach about 1,070, Racine is up an average of 15% to reach 814 and Kenosha is averaging 13.7% and is at 511 claims. Sheboygan and Washington have both averaged a 18.4% increase with 340 and 383 claims last week respectively. Ozaukee County had 220 claims with an average increase of 19.7%. Walworth County is at 242 claims and averaged a 16.6% increase.

Southeastern Wisconsin is not alone in seeing claims trend higher. Claims are up an average of 15.4% for the last four weeks in Dane County, reaching 1,546 last week. Brown County averaged a 14.8% increase and had 823 claims.

Seven counties – Kewaunee, Buffalo, Taylor Price, Florence, Rusk and Lincoln, have averaged a decrease for the last four weeks. Combined, those counties had 224 initial claims last week.

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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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