Sunday, June 23, 2019

Wisconsin jobs and Census reports shows aging state needs new direction

We got a new Wisconsin’s May jobs report on Thursday, and it was decent. But as you'll notice, it's the same “yeah, but” that we’ve seen before.
Place of Residence Data: Wisconsin's preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May remained at 2.8 percent, down from 3.1 percent in May 2018. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate was 67.3 percent in May 2019, down from 68.1 percent in May 2018. The national unemployment rate and labor force participation rate in May were 3.6 percent and 62.8 percent respectively.
Note that “labor force participation” stat. It continues a trend of Wisconsin’s labor force and total number of people “employed” continuing to decline, with the labor force down 5,500 in May, and number employed down 6,000. In fact, Wisconsin’s labor force of 3.122 million is the lowest we’ve had in more than 3 years (March 2016).

Which is why I keep pointing out that our low unemployment rate is misleading, because it doesn’t reflect any kind of significant job growth. If you impute the participation rates from May 2018 and May 2019 to get an “adult population” figure, it shows that Wisconsin has 29,000 more people of adult working age. At the same time, more than 10,000 fewer of those people identify as “employed”. That sounds like a place that is in decline, not one that’s “booming.”

On the payrolls side, we finally did get some growth, albeit not much.
Place of Work Data: Wisconsin added 19,600 private-sector jobs from May 2018 to May 2019, and 15,000 total non-farm jobs over the same time period. From April 2019 to May 2019, Wisconsin added 1,800 private-sector jobs and 1,700 total non-farm jobs.
I guess it beats having fewer jobs in May, and April’s total was revised up by 2,600 (meaning we only lost 500 jobs that month) but Wisconsin is still down 2,500 jobs for all of 2019 (200 in the private sector). And job growth of 0.5% over the last 12 months when the country has added jobs at a rate more than 3 times faster (1.6%) isn’t good at all.

Part of the slow growth issues in Wisconsin was further illustrated by this week's report from the US Census Bureau which looked at ages and demographics of all US states and counties. And while parts of the country are growing younger (including a Census Bureau definition of "Midwest" that seems to be more like the Great Plains), Wisconsin is growing older, particularly up North.

The Wisconsin State Journal went deeper into these numbers, and the divide among different parts of the state was even more noticeable.
Wisconsin is now the 13th oldest state in the nation, which has an overall median age of 38.2, up 1 year from 2010.
According to the Census, four out of five U.S. counties were older on average in 2018 than in 2010.

In this decade, the median age has increased in all but two Wisconsin counties — Grant and Menominee, which is the youngest at 31.1 years. Iron County remains the oldest, with a median age of 55.2 years....

There are now a dozen Wisconsin counties where half the population is over 50.

Many of those counties have seen an influx of retirees at a time when younger people are moving to urban areas.

“It’s kind of a triple-whammy,” [Dan] Veroff [of the UW-Madison Applied Population Laboratory] said.
And this is the real reason for the low unemployment that Wisconsin Republicans keep trying to prop up - aging Boomers drop out of the work force, and are not replaced by younger people staying in the state, so the unemployment rate "drops" without any growth under it.

We've had 8 years of trickle-down in Fitzwalkerstan that hasn't helped anyone except for a connected few, and it's led many people with talent to either leave Wisconsin, or not come here. As shown by last week's stats from both the Wisconsin jobs report and the Census Bureau, we need to have policies that encourage workers and others to come to the state, to reverse the lower job growth and declining labor force in recent years.

To do that, it requires higher wages and stronger community investments that increase the availabilities of services and stability. In other words, exactly the opposite of what we've seen with the regressive, cronyist WisGOP agenda that has been in place since 2010.

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