March unemployment hits record low while jobs reach record high in Wisconsin

By: - April 21, 2023 5:00 am
Help wanted side written on cardboard on the counter at a restaurant

A help wanted sign on the counter of a restaurant. (Spencer Platt | Getty Images)

Unemployment in Wisconsin dropped to a new low of 2.5% in March as the state broke records for the highest number of jobs and the lowest number of people out of work, the state labor department reported Thursday.

The state logged just shy of 3 million jobs in March — a total of 2,997,900, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) reported.

The number of people who reported they were out of work but were actively seeking employment was 76,600. That was a record low, according to DWD.

The report comes one week after lawmakers held public hearings on a collection of bills making access to unemployment insurance and Medicaid more difficult. Authors and advocates of the legislation said the measures were needed to force people off government support programs because employers have been struggling to fill job vacancies.

Critics of the legislation contended that with unemployment as low as it has been for more than a year, factors such as access to child care, transportation and housing were responsible for the dearth of job applicants — not benefit programs.

The monthly unemployment and jobs numbers are projections based on two different surveys conducted by the federal government: one of households that asks people whether they’re working or looking for work, and one of employers asking how many people are on their payrolls.

The number of people in Wisconsin who reported they were unemployed in March fell by 6,400 from February and by 8,600 from March 2022, according to DWD. Employers in the state reported 900 more nonfarm jobs than in February and 41,400 more than in March 2022.

Sectors with some of the biggest job gains include health care and social assistance, with 11,800 more jobs than a year earlier, and accommodation and food services, with 9,100 more jobs in the same period.

In Wisconsin 64.6% of people over 16 are working or looking for work — two percentage points more than the national labor force participation rate (62.6%). (People in military service, in prison, in nursing homes or other institutions are not counted, but people who are older than 65 and living independently are included.)

Announcing the March job numbers, DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said the data made the case for proposals that Gov. Tony Evers has advanced in his 2023-25 state budget.

“Wisconsin’s historic economic performance — with a record-low unemployment rate and record-low number of people unemployed — demands that we continue efforts to remove employment barriers, invest in innovative solutions, and prepare our workforce for the green jobs of the future,” Pechacek stated.

She plugged workforce programs the Evers administration launched with federal pandemic relief money starting in mid-2021 and said the state could do more “to further tap underutilized talent pools” by adopting budget proposals such as one Evers has proposed for a paid family and medical leave program.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.