Monday, May 23, 2022

Another good April jobs report in Wisconsin. But how much further can we grow?

Late last week, we found out that Wisconsin followed the trend of the rest of the country, and continued to add jobs while keeping unemployment low in April.
Place of Residence Data: Wisconsin's labor force participation rate was 66.5 percent in April, unchanged from March, and 4.3 percentage points higher than the national rate of 62.2 percent for April. Wisconsin's unemployment rate in April was 2.8 percent, tying the record low set in March and 0.8 percentage points below the 3.6% national unemployment rate for April.

Place of Work Data: Wisconsin total nonfarm jobs increased by 2,700 from March to April 2022 while private-sector jobs increased by 3,100 over the same period.
Pretty good place to be in, to be sure. After a lull last Summer, the state has added more than 42,000 jobs over the last 6 months, and nearly 83,000 more Wisconsinites identify as "employed" now versus the end of 2020.

But you'll notice that the state is still 65,000 jobs below our pre-COVID peak. So how is Wisconsin so low on adding jobs yet still has record-low unemployment? WPR’s summary of the state jobs report includes this reasoning from an official at the Department of Workforce Development.
Wage increases may be having another effect on workers: They're permitting some to forgo a part-time evening job.

"We're seeing fewer people working multiple jobs, and we're seeing fewer people working part-time jobs, which is somewhat related," [DWD chief economist Dennis] Winters said. "One of the reasons we think this might be the case is that with higher wages, those people don't need a second job."
That rings true, especially given that we know the highest wage gains over the last year have been on the lower end of the wage scale, particularly in food services and hospitality.

It also rings true that Wisconsin would be among the states where a sizable amount of older workers have decided to retire in recent years. The Wisconsin Counties Association released a study last December discussing the state's aging workforce, and the lack of younger Wisconsinites slated to take their places in coming years.

Combine that with COVID wracking havoc on public health, and it illustrates a serious challenge that state lawmakers have to meet – getting more people to want to come to a cold-weather state to increase the state’s economic potential. If we don’t find ways to provide and extend this state’s advantages in a way that encourages people to come here and stay here, we can only get so far.

It's true that Wisconsin’s job market is in a pretty good place if you’re looking for work and/or want to improve your job situation. But if we want the state to get beyond where we are today, we need to improve our infrastructure at both the physical and human levels, and get real leaders in charge who will deal with the 2020s as they exist.

We also need economic policies that lead to wage growth for everyday workers, while encouraging talent creation, particularly among new/small businesses. That type of strategy is certainly not what we’re seeing from the Koched-up fools who call the shots in Wisconsin’s Republican Party these days, as they would rather continue the giveaways and “divde-and-conquer” mentality that led to the state falling behind in the 2010s. That GOP mentality rewards campaign donors and corporate cronies who only want to gobble market share and profits while not having to do more work and improve their products.

Allowing the state to be run by regressive Republicans who destroy public schools and reproductive rights while allowing policy-making to be done by crooked and low-educated hacks isn’t a winning plan for the 2020s. This is a time when many Americans have more choices in where they want to live, and in who they wish to associate with. Encouraging a racist, two-tier society that panders to resentful, self-centered twits who peaked in high school isn’t something that’s attractive to a lot of people with real game and life options.

So if we want to avoid having our job growth grind to a halt over the next couple of years, then we shouldn't keep those lowlifes and their failing policies in power this Fall. We're near-maxed as it is, and backwards laws and a regressive mentality isn't going to change our current demographic limitations.

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