Job numbers ease slightly, but state economist sees little cause for concern

By: - November 17, 2023 5:05 am
Mural depicting workers

Mural depicting workers painted on windows of the Madison-Kipp Corp. by Goodman Community Center students and Madison-Kipp employees with Dane Arts Mural Arts. (Erik Gunn | Wisconsin Examiner)

Wisconsin jobs and unemployment figures cooled slightly in October, but the changes weren’t significant enough to suggest the economy is shifting, according to the state labor department.

Wisconsin employers reported a projected 3.014 million jobs in October, down about 1,400 from September, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) reported Thursday. There were 900 fewer construction jobs and 1,200 fewer manufacturing jobs than were reported in the previous month, the agency said.

The jobs numbers come from a national survey of employers.

Unemployment ticked up by a fraction of a percentage point, to 3.2% in October from 3.1% in September, according to DWD. The number of people reporting they were unemployed and seeking work in October rose 5,400 from September, to 102,000.

Unemployment data comes from a separate national survey that contacts households and asks who is working or looking for work.

Dennis Winters, Department of Workforce Development
Dennis Winters, Department of Workforce Development chief economist (DWD photo)

Dennis Winters, DWD’s chief economist, told reporters in a briefing Thursday that the shifts don’t give him cause for concern.

“It might be a slowdown but I’m not looking at a dip in economic activity,” said Winters. “I’m thinking things are still looking pretty positive.”

Wisconsin labor force participation — people who are working or actively seeking work — remains at 65.8% of the population over age 16. Winters said that has been bolstered by job openings and increased wages drawing more people into the job market.

Manufacturing has been “pretty healthy” in the aftermath of the brief 2020 COVID-19 recession, Winters said, but growth has been stunted as employers have struggled to fill job openings.

“The biggest problem they have, along with a lot of other sectors, is their inability to find enough workers,” Winters said. “So they’ve had to turn away some production.”


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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary.