Wisconsin unemployment rate jumps to 14.1%, nearly 386K jobs lost in April

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Last updated on May 22nd, 2020 at 11:14 pm

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate jumped to 14.1% in April and the state lost 385,900 private-sector jobs during the month, accordingly to newly released data from the Department of Workforce Development.

The data is the first monthly report to show the significant impact the coronavirus has had on Wisconsin’s labor market. The surveys that generate the monthly data are done around the 12th of each month, meaning March’s report did not incorporate the shift in the economy.

While the April report shows a jump in unemployment from 3.1% in March, Dennis Winters, chief economist at DWD, said it is unlikely the unemployment rate has gone much higher in the last several weeks, pointing to a leveling-off of continuing unemployment claims.

Continuing claims reached 321,063 in the week that included April 12 and have trended down to 308,890 in the first full week of May.

Initial weekly unemployment claims have also trended down in recent weeks after spiking to more than 100,000 per week in late March and early April. At 31,314 last week, initial claims are still at nearly 9-times their level at this time last year.

With many businesses reopening after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order last week, initial unemployment claims are down almost 15% from Sunday to Wednesday compared to the same time last week.

Despite the decrease, Winters said it is too soon to know if the reopening is leading to a rebound in the labor market, pointing to continuing claims as a metric to watch.

“That will be some indicator of how quickly some of these people get hired back,” he said, noting it likely wouldn’t be until the June report – scheduled to be released in mid-July – that the monthly data starts to show what reopening has done to the labor market.

In the April jobs report, job losses hit across all sectors, but the leisure and hospitality industry was hit particularly hard. The accommodation and food service portion of the industry lost 133,800 jobs, a 57% drop from March’s seasonally-adjusted total. Arts, entertainment and recreation also lost 23,200 jobs, a 54% drop from March.

Private-sector service industries saw employment decline 17% from March. The retail trade sector lost 39,300 jobs, a 13% decline. The private educational services sector lost 7,500 jobs, a 14% decline, while health care and social assistance lost 48,000 jobs, a nearly 12% decline.

Administrative support and waste management services was also hit hard, losing 21,500 jobs, a decline of almost 16%.

Financial activities saw the smallest job losses, shedding 2,700 positions, a less than 2% decline. Professional, scientitific and technical services also performed relatively better, losing 6,000 jobs, a 6% decline.

Goods producing sectors lost around 8% of their total employment, cutting 51,900 jobs. Most of those job losses were in manufacturing, which cut 40,800 positions, a decline of 8.5%. Manufacturing’s job losses were relatively evenly split between durable and nondurable goods.

Construction lost 11,100 jobs, a decline of 8.7%.


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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He spent also 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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