Wisconsin unemployment rate falls to three-year low in November

By: - December 17, 2021 5:05 am

Photo by Pete Wright, via Unsplash

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell in November to 3%, a low not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the state labor department reported Thursday.

“We’re definitely coming back in the business cycle,” said Dennis Winters, chief economist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The jobless rate last reached 3% in November 2018.

Employers added 12,300 jobs in Wisconsin in November and 73,800 jobs since November 2020, according to DWD. Nearly half added in the last year, 35,800, were in the leisure and hospitality sector, the segment of the economy that was hit hardest by the pandemic. Winters said the segment has now recovered about 90% of the jobs lost during the pandemic. 

Manufacturing accounted for another 19,300 new jobs over the 12-month period, and manufacturing employment continues to be ahead of its last pre-pandemic high, he said.

Repeating a common pattern from the last several months, retail jobs fell by 1,600 in November. Over the last 12 months, retail jobs have been flat, while jobs in transportation and warehousing have grown by 7,200 in that same period, reflecting the continued shift in consumer buying habits from making purchases in person at physical stores to relying instead on online commerce.

The jobs numbers are drawn from information submitted by employers across the state, while figures on the number of people who are employed or unemployed come from a separate survey of U.S. households.

Based on the household survey, an estimated 6,200 more Wisconsin residents were added to the state’s employment rolls in November, DWD reported, while the number of people who were unemployed and looking for work fell by 7,400. Since November 2020, 93,400 more people are now employed, and the jobless ranks have fallen by 39,700. 

Altogether, more than 3.1 million Wisconsin residents were in the labor force in November, meaning they were employed or actively seeking work — 66.4% of state residents 16 or older. With the national labor force participation rate at 61.8% in November, the state has continued to outpace the U.S., Winters said.

In a statement, Gov. Tony Evers called the November jobs announcement “great news” and cited both the state’s low unemployment rate and the persistently high labor force participation rate in support of the state’s $130 million series of workforce development grant programs. The series of grants will address the labor challenges our communities are facing by reducing barriers to employment and investing in long-term innovative solutions to attract and retain talented, skilled workers in our state,” Evers said.

The governor, DWD and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced a dozen Workforce Innovation Grants totaling $59.5 million to regional projects aimed at addressing employers’ need for workers and prospective workers’ need for skills and sustainable jobs.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to meeting the workforce needs of our communities,” Evers said Thursday morning at Madison College.

The college will receive up to $2.9 million to bolster child care training and also expand its training offerings in advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology jobs.

Operation Fresh Start, a Dane County program that provides job training in construction as well as conservation skills to people ages 16 to 24, will receive $3.3 million to expand its ability to enroll more participants in its Build Academy.


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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.