Sunday, February 28, 2021

"Gold standard" report shows US lost more jobs in 2020, and Wisconsin likely lost less

One thing that passed largely unnoticed was Thursday's first look at the "gold standard" Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) for the September 2019 - September 2020 time period. It's always good to check back on this to see what things looked like in all 50 states, and compare it to what we thought we knew last Fall, especially given that the September 2020 jobs report was the last one that came out before the November elections.

What we see is that in September, jobs were still far below their pre-COVID peaks (and still are, for that matter). But also, Wisconsin actually fared pretty well compared with the rest of the country when it came to limiting job losses in the COVID World.
All 50 states had fewer jobs in Sept 2020 than in Sept 2019, but Wisconsin's loss as only 17th worst in the US. It's also interesting in the QCEW that the monthly jobs report said the US's 12-month losses were less than what the QCEW showed, but Wisconsin's losses were more in the monthly jobs report.
This comes into play in a couple of ways. The first is that perhaps the US is even further in the jobs hole than we know, and that makes the need to pass stimulus measures (especially expanded unemployment benefits) all the more urgent. We'll get more of a picture of this on Friday with the release of the February US jobs report.

In Wisconsin, the 2020 jobs figures will be benchmarked to the QCEW as part of Thursday's jobs report for January. So based on the September 2020 QCEW, Wisconsin's losses should be slightly diminished by somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs. That's worth looking for, in addition to finding out if Wisconsin is seeing the same leveling off as the rest of the country did in early 2021, as the depths of cold weather and increased COVID infections took hold.

2020 obviously was a tough year to get a measure, given the unprecedented level of job losses in the Spring and in figuring how many of those jobs came back in the Summer and Fall. But it's something we need as much information as we can at this point, so we can figure out just how much help is still needed, and for how long.

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