Thursday, December 2, 2021

Most of Wisconsin was still in COVID job deficits this June. And some places have a long way back

This week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the full data set on the "gold standard" Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which gave a more complete picture on where we stood at the end of June.

This adds to the statewide and large-county numbers that were released before Thanksgiving, which I discussed here, and noted that these numbers need to be recognized with the context that the end of Q2 2020 was when much of America was still locked down and unemployment was high. So we really should compare it to where we stood after Q2 2019 - before COVID-19 was known as a thing.

Under those standards, Wisconsin didn't lose as much as the US did in the first year, but didn't gain back as much in the following year, and ended up at a similar severity of jobs deficit by June 2021 that we had in the country as a whole.

That overall deficit is -3.43% for Wisconsin, and when you dig down into the individual counties, we see that there were actually 7 Wisconsin counties that actually had more jobs at the end of June 2021 vs June 2019. This was led by Calumet County, who suffered the smallest damage as COVID broke out (only losing 2.4% of jobs for the June 2020 report), and ended up with a 3.8% growth rate that is a good number for a normal 2-year period, let alone COVID World.

It's also worth noting that most of the counties that did best didn't lose the 8.6% of jobs that the state did as a whole between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020. And there does seem to be a hangover effect where the places that got hit worst in Q2 2020 (whether due to shutdowns or other reasons) were often the ones in worst shape.

And some counties were still cratered in June 2021, with 10 counties still down more than 6%. This was led by Jackson County, who had lost more than 1 out of 8 jobs that existed there in June 2019.

So how many of the jobs should we have expected to return? Statewide, 60.3% of the jobs that had been lost between June 2019 and June 2020 had come back by June 2021. But this varies widely depending on where you are, even among the largest counties in the state. More than 3/4 of Dane County's jobs came back, but only 3 out 8 of Milwaukee County's had.

% of lost jobs recovered, June 2020-June 2021
Statewide 60.3%
Milwaukee Co 37.1%
Waukesha Co 54.5%
Dane County 75.9%
Brown County 53.6%
Outagamie Co 43.8%
Winnebago Co 56.7%
Rest of state 64.5%

But the counties with the lowest number of lost jobs recovered were overwhelmingly in rural Wisconsin.

It is not surprising that we were still behind in June 2019, given the economic damage of the pandemic and the increasing number of people out of the work force and/or DEAD (over 9,000 due to COVID as of this week). And given that unemployment in Wisconsin is down to a low 3.2%, there is a legitimate question if we can get the rest of those jobs back any time soon.

It's a good situation if you're looking for work and/or coming back to it. But it also means we need to recalibrate what a good level of growth and number of jobs may be as we get into 2022.

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