Monday, June 7, 2021

New "gold standard" report confirms 2020 put Wis in a huge jobs hole

We recently got the full data set from the "gold standard" Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW), and it gave some extra insight into just how bad things were in the Wisconsin jobs market as 2020 ended and President Biden prepared to take over the presidency. It's a stark reminder of just how far down we were as this year began, and how we have some distance left to travel to approach the pre-COVID level of employment.

When you compare the figures for Wisconsin between December 2019 and December 2020, it shows that Wisconsin lost nearly 139,500 jobs, a decline of 4.8%. That 4.8% was a larger drop than we saw in Calendar Year 2008 or 2009, during the Great Recession, and it's also worth remembering that our recovery had largely stalled out by October, as the weather cooled and COVID spiked to its worst levels.

Fortunately, we aren't likely to have back-to-back losses in 2021, but it still shows that there is a significant hole we need to dig out of. And some areas lost much more than 4.8% of their jobs, with some Wisconsin counties losing more than 10%.

By raw numnbers, Wisconsin's three largest counties had the largest losses. But it's the scale of the losses that are eye-opening, especially in seeing the state's largest county lose nearly 35,000 jobs.

Some of that shouldn't be surprising, as Milwaukee and Dane Counties are the top 2 counties for tourism dollars in the state, and also host the most busines conventions. Both areas got drilled as people stayed home in the COVID World and that also shows up in how targeted many of the job losses were. More than half of the private sector jobs lost in Wisconsin in 2020 were in the Leisure and Hospitality Sector, over 60,000 in all, which left us with nearly 22% fewer Leisure and Hospitality jobs than there were in December 2019.

And in the state's largest counties by both population and tourism dollars, the losses in bars, restaurants, hotels and other Leisure/Hospitality industries were even higher. The Titletown area also lost more than 1 in 4 of those types of jobs in 2020.

Which may explain why you hear owners in those industries complaining that they need so many people now that COVID is fading and demanding is rebounding. Guess that's what happens when you lay a lot of people off instead of giving them furloughs and strong wages to make sure they come back.

By comparison, one sizable industry was nearly back to even in Wisconsin by the end of the year, and both managerial and manufacturing jobs lost a lower rate of jobs than the statewide level of 4.8%.

Job change, Dec 2019-Dec 2020, Wisconsin
Construction -0.02% (-32 jobs)
Financial Activities -1.0% (-1,539)
Prof./Business Services -2.5% (-8,030)
Manufacturing -4.0% (-19,311)

And as vaccinations picked up in the Spring, we will likely see many of these job holes grow smaller. But that doesn't mean we are anything near all the way back, and we have to recognize that the damage that so many workers and businesses had to take as COVID and related demand changes isn't something that is going to go away now that the need for masks is lessening and sales are going back up.

We need to continue to see strong growth throughout 2021, and can't pretend we are "back to normal" in a vtime when tens of thousands of Wisconsin jobs still have not come back.

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