Brief

State’s jobs numbers, unemployment are both up, although not by much

By: - August 19, 2022 6:24 am
construction worker

(Josh Olalde | Unsplash)

Wisconsin employers added nearly 10,000 jobs in July, the state labor department reported Thursday, continuing job growth that has been steady for six out of the seven months of 2022.

At the same time, however, “we didn’t see the normal pop we get in June and July in the workforce,” said Dennis Winters, chief labor economist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) at a briefing on the state’s employment picture.

The number of people who reported they were employed dropped by 10,000 in July compared with June. The number of people who said they were working or looking for work dropped as well, by about 9,000.

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

The result led to a slight uptick in the state’s unemployment rate to 3%, still a near-record low, Winters said. He called it  “fairly slight in the scheme of things,” with both the number of unemployed people and the unemployment rate still low.

The number of jobs in the state is calculated from a monthly survey of employers, and may double-count individuals who have more than one job.

The report for employment, unemployment and labor force participation gets its data from a survey of households. Individuals are counted once, regardless of how many jobs they have.

Both sets of data are adjusted to account for fluctuations related to the season — when the labor force expands in the summer as students swarm into the job market, for example.

Half of July’s gain of 10,000 jobs were in hotels, restaurants and related businesses, which added 5,100 positions. The construction industry added 2,900 jobs, bringing the sector’s total employment to 132,900, “which is a new high for the state and historical high for the state construction industry,” Winters said.

Winters said reasons that both employment and labor force participation drifted down in July weren’t clear. One factor, he said, could be continued difficulties in tourist areas in hiring students from overseas under special summer work visas, which has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The larger long-term challenge is the aging of Wisconsin’s workforce overall. “This is true across every occupation, in all geographies,” Winters said. “There’s a need to stay focused, to tap into our unutilized populations — ones that have barriers to entry.”

Those barriers can include transportation from home to work, finding housing in the same area where jobs are, resources for child care and care for other dependents, and matching skills with the jobs that are available, he added.

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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. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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