Wisconsin unemployment rate again below 3%

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Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is once again below 3% and the state added 4,800 private sector jobs in January, according to the latest data released by the state Department of Workforce Development.

The unemployment rate came in at 2.9% for January, down slightly from 3% in December. The national unemployment rate was 3.4% in January.

The December figure itself was lower than previously reported. Preliminary figures put the rate at 3.2% to end 2022. Job and unemployment figures are regularly updated and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces the data, just underwent an annual benchmarking process for state and local labor market data.

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The annual benchmarking process delays the release of monthly jobs data at the state level. A more recent data point, initial unemployment claims, shows an encouraging picture. Since the start of the year, Wisconsin has averaged 6,454 initial claims per week, down more than 19% since the same time last year.

Over the past four weeks, however, the average has been 5,395, a 1.6% year-over-year decline.

While an unemployment rate below 3% bodes well for Wisconsin’s economy, the picture is not quite as positive as it was a year ago, when the unemployment was at similar levels.

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That’s because labor force participation in Wisconsin has continued to decline, dropping a tenth of a point from December to 64.5% and nine-tenths since January 2022. The year-over-year decline amounts to 23,900 fewer people in Wisconsin’s labor force.

The job gains Wisconsin did see were primarily driven by goods producing sectors, where employment was up by 4,400. Construction added 2,400 jobs and durable goods manufacturing added 2,500, although nondurable goods manufacturing lost 400.

In service sectors, accommodation and food service led the way, adding 1,500 positions and retail trade added 1,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis.

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Transportation, warehousing and utilities lost 2,300 jobs and professional and business services lost 1,000 positions.

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