Saturday, October 17, 2020

Either Wisconsin is nearly back to normal, or we're down 200,000+ jobs. It can't be both

The final Wisconsin jobs report before the election was an odd one, where the two surveys told very different stories.
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) preliminary employment estimates for the month of September 2020. The data shows that Wisconsin added 23,800 total non-farm and 13,700 private-sector jobs in the month of September. Wisconsin's unemployment rate for September was 5.4 percent, down from August's revised rate of 6.3 percent.
The job numbers are nice to see, but are well below what we'd be seeing if unemployment dropped by 0.9% for the month - and to a figure that is less than 2% above where we were in February, before COVID World began.

In fact, the household survey (which the unemployment rate is based on) indicates that more than 105,000 Wisconsinites got back to work in September, and more than 82,000 got back into the work force. Which is a major change from where the household survey had us in August.
The household survey does have a lot of variance from month-to-month due to its small sample size, and I'm not going to buy that we've had a massive jobs boom in the state for August and September (look around, does it look like things have turned around like that since July?).

Especially since the trends in the Wisconsin payrolls survey largely match the shocking 2-month decline and plateauing recovery that the national numbers are showing.
The payrolls survey says Wisconsin is still down more than 212,000 jobs, vs the household survey that claims only 33,000 fewer people are working vs pre-COVID World. I suppose we find out in the coming months which is more accurate, as more data from this chaotic time comes in and the annual benchmarking process takes place. But which side of the jobs report you're inclined to buy into might explain a lot when we look at election results in less than 3 weeks.

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