Saturday, August 19, 2023

Wisconsin gains jobs, and a bit of unemployment in July. Still in a great place

We found out this week that July was another month with job growth in Wisconsin.
Place of Residence Data: Wisconsin's unemployment rate edged up to 2.6% in July after hitting a record low of 2.4% in April and May. The number of unemployed people increased 4,300 over the month and decreased 12,500 over the year to 81,000. The labor force gained 11,200 workers over the month for a total labor force of 3,124,700. The number of Wisconsinites employed increased 6,800 in July for a total of 3,043,600 employed.

• Place of Work Data: Total nonfarm jobs increased 4,700 in July to a new high of 3,007,200, an annual increase of 39,500. Private sector jobs increased by 6,400 over the month and 34,700 over the year. Healthcare and social assistance jobs grew 7,500 over the month and 12,500 over the year.
Even the increase in unemployment to 2.6% was for the "good reason" - more Wisconsinites entering the work force, and 6,800 of them finding jobs. It continues a positive trend we've seen in both stats for all of 2023.

Although I view this as a good jobs report, there are a couple of cautionary items in there. June's job growth was revised down from over 6,000 to 2,500, so it mutes the growth totals for July. Still an all-time high that we should appreciate, but a definite slowdown in growth in the last 12 months compared to what we got from July 2021 to July 2022.

We also saw a seasonally-adjusted loss of 800 jobs in manufacturing. While that reflects lower-than-normal hiring in July, it's still part of a concerning trend where there are fewer Wisconsin manufacturing jobs now than there was a year ago, reversing a big runup in jobs in 2021 and the first half of 2022.

The question is whether this reflects more layoffs in manufacturing businesses, or if workers are leaving and aren't able to be replaced. Looking at the state-level JOLTS data for Wisconsin, it says that at least as of June, layoffs and job openings were both lower, and Wisconsin WARN notices indicate a few more mass layoffs than 2022, but still a lower level than we saw in the 2010s.

So i think Governor Evers is on the right track when he talked about expanding the entrants into Wisconsin's workforce pool for manufacturing and related blue-collar industries.

With interest rates staying high and our work force still near its limits, it's going to be a challenge to keep our unemployment rate under 3% and to keep adding jobs for the rest of 2023 and 2024. But job growth and 2.6% unemployment is a great spot to be in if you're looking at the Wisconsin jobs market, and we need to try to keep it up.

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