Brief

Wisconsin unemployment remains low in December as jobs continue to grow

By: - January 22, 2024 5:15 am
Labor Temple mural of workers

Detail of a mural inside the Madison Labor Temple building. (Wisconsin Examiner photo)

Wisconsin’s monthly employment snapshots finished the year with a new record for the number of jobs and an upbeat assessment from the state’s labor department.

A survey of employers projected a total of nearly 3.03 million jobs in Wisconsin in December 2023, according to the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

Based on a separate survey of households, DWD projected an unemployment rate of 3.3%, the same as in November 2023. The unemployment rate calculates how many people are not working in the total labor force, which consists of people who are working or actively seeking work.

The data show Wisconsin employers and workers are “just continuing the trends we saw all year,” said DWD’s chief economist, Dennis Winters, at a media briefing Thursday. “And the way things are shaping up for 2024, we expect the same thing.”

The employers survey counted a total of 3,026,500 nonfarm jobs in Wisconsin in December, a gain of 80,000 from a year ago.

“The economy has been fairly strong — much stronger than a lot of people had previously thought,” Winters said. The economic growth, he added, produces “a positive feedback loop, that if you add jobs and pay people, they’ll consume more. And consumption drives the U.S. economy, so that positive feedback loop keeps circling on itself. We’re going to continue to see economic gains and workforce gains.”

In Wisconsin, 65.9% of residents 16 or older reported in December they were working or looking for work. The state’s labor force participation rate continues to outpace the nation’s, which was 62.5%.

Winters said Wisconsin’s higher rate reflected larger percentages of young people and women in the state’s workforce than the rest of the U.S.

Employers continue to report that finding workers is “still the number one issue that they’re facing,” Winters said. With more people joining the workforce, however, “they’re talking about how it’s gotten a little easier.”

Nevertheless, he added, the competition for workers remains strong, “and we don’t expect that to change at all going forward.”

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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.

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