Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dips to 2.8%

Economic indicators

Last updated on January 24th, 2022 at 12:53 pm

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.8% in December, a record low, but the state’s total private sector employment remains down 67,600 from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

The state did add 5,300 private sector jobs in December, pushing total private sector employment to 2,516,200, according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

December’s gain was led by an increase 4,800 jobs in the manufacturing sector, including 3,500 in nondurable goods manufacturing. Wholesale trade also added 1,900 jobs during the month, according to the latest estimates.

At the same time, several sectors saw declines in employment. Accommodation and food service lost 2,500 jobs, health care and social assistance lost 1,900 and real estate, rental and leasing lost 1,400.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate for the month was down two-tenths from 3% in November. The number of people classified as unemployed dropped to 86,200, a record low.

The overall labor force in the state was up by 600 and the labor force participation rate was unchanged at 66.4%.

Nationally, unemployment is at 3.9% and labor force participation is at 61.9%.

While Wisconsin employment picture is in good shape, it is difficult to see how the state’s total private sector employment will recover to pre-pandemic levels without more people joining the workforce or the state’s population growing.

Dennis Winters, chief economist with the state Department of Workforce Development, attributed some of the gap to a decline in the number of people working multiple jobs, something he said is appearing in national data as well.

The recovery is also uneven across industries.

Manufacturing, for example, has more than recovered with employment up 6,700 jobs or about 1.4%. Employment in transportation, warehousing and utilities is up 9,100 or almost 8% compared to February 2020.

On the other hand, employment in accommodation and food service is still down 23,600 or 9.7%. The arts and entertainment sector is off 11.9% or 5,300. Health care and social assistance employment is down 24,100 or 5.8% and retail trade is down 11,500 or 3.9%. Private sector education service employment is down 10.1% or 5,600.

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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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