Wisconsin’s unemployment rate ticked up in December

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate increased to 5.5% in December, even as the state added 19,200 private sector jobs compared to the previous month.

The state’s unemployment rate for November was initially reported at 5%, a full percentage point drop from October. However, that figure was revised upward to 5.3% with the release of the December data.

After spiking more than 10 percentage points to 13.6% in April, the unemployment rate made significant improvements over the summer, but the gains appear to have stalled out as the pandemic has worsened again.

December’s 5.5% unemployment rate marks the second time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the rate has increased from one month to the next. From September to October the rate jumped from 5.4% to 6%.

Even with the addition of 19,200 private sector jobs in December, the state is still 174,200 jobs behind where it was at the same point in 2019.

Nearly half of those losses are in the leisure and hospitality sector, where employment is down 80,000 from December 2019. Accommodation and food service employment, in particular, is down 63,100 while the arts, entertainment and recreation category is down 16,900 over that period.

In December alone, the leisure and hospitality sector lost another 2,100 jobs.

Employment in health care and social assistance is down by 20,700, but it did increase by 3,200 in December.

Likewise, the manufacturing sector is still down 13,400 from December 2019 but added 6,500 jobs last month, including 2,700 in durable goods and 3,800 in nondurable goods. The durable goods portion of the industry accounts for most of the year-over-year decline with a drop of 12,100 jobs compared to 2019.

The retail trade sector, portions of which were hard hit by the pandemic, added 8,500 jobs in the seasonally-adjusted December data but employment in the sector is still down 2,900 from December 2019.

Wisconsin’s job numbers generally compare favorably to the rest of the country. The national unemployment rate was at 6.7%, unchanged from November.

While Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate slipped slightly from 66.8% to 66.7% from November to December, it is still much better than the national rate of 61.5%.

Year-over-year, Wisconsin’s labor force participation is down 0.2 percentage points while the national rate is down 1.7 points.

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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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