Thursday, June 16, 2016

May jobs look very good in Wisconsin. Really

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s new monthly jobs report says the state got back on a positive track in May, in marked contrast to the slowdown in job growth for the country as a while.
Place of work data: Based on preliminary data, the state added a statistically significant 45,900 private sector jobs and 47,700 total non-farm jobs from May 2015 to May 2016, and 9,700 private sector jobs from April 2016 to May 2016. Other significant changes include the year-over-year additions of 9,000 jobs in Transportation, Warehousing & Utilities and 5,700 jobs in Health Care and Social Assistance.

·Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.2 percent in May 2016, down from 4.4 percent in April 2016. The 4.2 percent rate is the lowest rate since March 2001, is lower than the 4.6 percent rate in May 2015 and is lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.7 percent in May 2016. Based on preliminary estimates, Wisconsin's total employment remained at a record high in May, growing by a statistically significant 62,600 year-over-year. Additionally, the number of unemployed individuals in the state decreased to its lowest point since May 2001 and Wisconsin's labor force participation rate of 68.7 continues to outpace the U.S. rate of 62.6 percent.

DWD Secretary Ray Allen issued the following statement: "Today's numbers show Wisconsin is continuing to see significant job growth with the addition of over 45,000 private sector jobs year-over-year and nearly 10,000 jobs over the month. Additionally, employment remains at an all-time high, the number of unemployed individuals is at its lowest point in 15 years, and our labor force participation rate continues to outpace the national rate. In a month where the nation added only 38,000 jobs, its lowest monthly increase since 2010, it is encouraging that indicators show Wisconsin's economy continuing to thrive."
“You hear that, we’re THRIVING! Believe it!” Gotta love the Walker DWD’s constant happy-talk in these releases.

However, the positive spin is likely warranted this time. In a rarity, I don’t have a lot of “yeah, buts” to throw in with this jobs report. Most of the sectors in Wisconsin saw growth in May outside of Construction, which lost 3,200 seasonally-adjusted jobs in the month, and had April’s numbers drop be revised down by another 300. But even that Construction drop isn’t all that bad, because that seasonally-adjusted “loss” of jobs reflected lower-than-normal May hiring of 5,100 in that sector, and with April Construction gaining 3,200 on a seasonally-adjusted basis(even with the downward revision), it seems logical that warm weather in April pulled a bit more seasonal hiring into that month vs. May. Construction employment was still up 8,500 jobs in Wisconsin over the 12 months through April 2016, and remains a standout industry for Wisconsin in recent times.

The unemployment rate’s drop from 4.4% to 4.2% was more due to a seasonally-adjusted drop in the labor force of 3,300 over job growth (+1,600 in that survey). But there’s not much room for me to complain over that when the US unemployment rate went down by 0.3% in the same month because of similar drops in the seasonally-adjusted work force.

The one bit of water I do want to throw on this report comes from the fact that a lot of the job growth was concentrated in two low-wage sectors. Trade (retail and related industry) added a seasonally-adjusted 4,800 jobs, and Leisure and Hospitality (bars, hotels and related industries) chipped in another 3,300. Both indicate that Summer hiring was stronger than normal, which could mean that those businesses anticipate big spending from consumers in the coming months. But it also could mean that there will be seasonally-adjusted losses in the coming months when the weather turns cooler and many entry-level workers go back to school. So keep an eye on it.

Obviously, we’ll see if those figures hold up with the “gold standard” Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages, which will have numbers for the first months of 2016 in September, and it doesn’t erase the major hole the first 5 years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan have left us. However, that reality shouldn’t take away the fact that this is a very good May jobs report in Wisconsin, and it makes for 4 sizable private-sector job growth gains in the first 5 months of 2016, along with unemployment now dropping in tandem with the rest of the nation. Given the low employment gains reported for the country as a whole in May, it’ll make tomorrow’s state-by-state jobs report very intriguing to see where we shape up.

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