Saturday, March 13, 2021

Wis jobs report shows state better than most. But we aren't all the way back

On Thursday, we got the release of a new Wisconsin jobs report. I had predicted that Wisconsin would have their job losses reduced with this benchmarking process a couple of weeks back, in contrast to America losing more than originally reported, and I was right.

But it ended up being even more of a positive revision than I thought.

Wisconsin job totals, Dec 2020 original vs revised
All jobs
Original 2,779,400 (-208,100 vs Dec 2019)
Revised 2,831,100 (-156,400)

Private Sector Jobs
Original 2,407,400 (-174,200 vs Dec 2019)
Revised 2,452,900 (-128,700)

That’s still a huge hole, but it’s nice to know it’s a shorter distance back to the pre-COVID World in Wisconsin than we thought. The household survey that gives us the unemployment rate is even better. Unemployment is back down below 4%, and not that far off from the 3.3% we had in January 2020.
Place of Residence Data: Wisconsin's labor force participation rate in January was 65.5, 4.1 percent higher than the national rate of 61.4 percent. Wisconsin's unemployment rate in January was 3.8 percent, while the national unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in the same month.
I’m not so sure I buy that we are near full employment, given that we still have more than 100,000 Wisconsinites filing unemployment each week (as shown by the latest unemployment claims report, and because we had a lower percentage of working-age adults working at the end of 2020 (62.9%) than we did at any time in the Great Recession.

Along those same lines, much like we have seen in the rest of the country, some of the reason behind the drop in the state's unemployment is due to people dropping out of the work force (the September Labor Force number has to be an error that I have to think will eventually be corrected).
But it’s also pretty clear that we are surviving the COVID World better than most places (well, except for that time in late October and most of November when Wisconsin was at or near the top in the US for new COVID infections per capita).

This helps explain how Wisconsin can have a sizable budget surplus while so many other states and localities are in desperate need of health. But just like with the virus, just because we are now doing better than most, it doesn't mean we can back off and pretend everything is fine today.

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