Daily Bread for 5.20.22: Employment in Wisconsin

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will see periods of sun contrasted with scattered thundershowers with a high of 72. Sunrise is 5:26 AM and sunset 8:16 PM for 14h 50m 10s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 74.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1873,  Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets.

Rob Mentzer reports Unemployment in Wisconsin is at a historic low, labor force is growing:

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has ever been.

New data from the state Department of Workforce Development for April show that for the second month in a row, the state’s unemployment rate was 2.8 percent, a historic low. 

Just over 3 million people are working in Wisconsin, DWD chief economist Dennis Winters said in a briefing Thursday, and the labor force expanded by 2,700 last month. That’s significant as employers in many sectors struggle to hire. Like the unemployment rate, the state’s labor force participation rate was unchanged from March. At 66.5 percent, Wisconsin’s share of people working exceeds the national labor force participation rate by 4.3 percentage points.

Economists measure unemployment based on how many people are actively seeking work, which means those who have retired or aren’t looking for work for other reasons are not counted as unemployed.

The state has about 98 percent as many jobs as it did before the pandemic plunged it into recession in early 2020, and even hard-hit sectors including hospitality are at 95 percent or more of their pre-COVID-19 employment levels. But only construction has added jobs since 2020, Winters said.

“We know the housing market is booming, especially multi-family housing,” Winters said. “All the construction folks we talk to, they’re just crying for workers.”

Multi-family residential construction is significantly outpacing building of single-family homes or heavy construction such as road-building, Winters said.

Two obvious points: (1) not all parts of the state are in the same economic condition and (2) areas of low unemployment cannot adopt a ‘growth strategy’ without additional workers, automation, or dramatic (and improbable) gains in short-term productivity.

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