Report: Wisconsin’s Economy Recovering Unevenly

by Benjamin Yount


A new report says some sectors of Wisconsin’s economy are still lagging.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum released its new report Wednesday. It says Wisconsin’s job numbers and unemployment rate are almost back to where they were before the coronavirus hit.

“Despite a fairly swift recovery from the early months of the pandemic, total employment in Wisconsin was still down by 69,428 jobs (2.4%) in December 2021 relative to December 2019,” the report stated. “That said, the pace of recovery is noteworthy – especially when considering that in April 2020, Wisconsin’s total employment fell to its lowest level (2.49 million jobs) in more than 20 years.”

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate topped 14% in April of 2020, last month it was back down to 2.9%.

But the report says retail jobs and restaurant jobs are still struggling to catch up, particularly in Milwaukee and Madison.

“Among the 58 subsectors within the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) with at least 10,000 workers in Wisconsin in December 2021, several sectors within the highlighted group are among those with the largest employment drops relative to December 2019. This includes clothing and clothing accessories stores (-20.0%); amusements, gambling and recreation (-15.1%); membership associations and organizations (-12.8%); accommodation (-12.0%); personal and laundry services (-11.5%); and food services and drinking places (-9.1%). Combined, these six subsectors alone account for a decline of 38,142 Wisconsin jobs since December 2019 – more than half of the 69,428 total jobs lost since that time,” the report notes.

The bright spot in the report is a 6% jump in warehouse and driving jobs in Wisconsin over the past two years.

“Transportation and warehousing grew from 121,404 jobs in Wisconsin in December 2019 to 129,015 in December 2021, a 6.3% increase,” the authors wrote.

The report’s area of concern is the state’s healthcare, nursing, and direct care sector.

“Statewide, the decline in jobs in the Nursing and Residential Care Facilities subsector may be the most concerning. In December 2019, 83,011 Wisconsinites were employed in this subsector, which was in line with job numbers over the previous decade. Since then, employment has fallen by over 10,000 and was at 71,984 in November 2021 – the lowest level since March 2003,” the report states.

And the report notes Wisconsin’s chronic worker shortage only makes the state’s economic recovery more uneven.

“The state faces a long-term challenge with regard to its aging population and shrinking labor pool. That could stress the economy as a whole and certain industries in particular,” the report says in its conclusion.

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Benjamin Yount is a contributor to The Center Square. 




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