New Report Examines Joblessness in Wisconsin

Monday, September 5, 2011 at 11:48 PM by

Each year around Labor Day the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) releases a report called the State of Working Wisconsin. This year’s update of that annual report is different because it focuses on the unemployed and underemployed.

There’s been some good press coverage of the report (see, for example Judy Newman’s article in the State Journal or John Schmid’s article in the Journal Sentinel).  In case you missed those articles, today’s blog post summarizes some of the key findings about the increased rates of unemployment and underemployment and the disparate impact of the job shortage in this state. 


Here are some of the major findings from the State of Working Wisconsin – 2011 Update:

  • Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is still “stubbornly high” – officially 7.8% in July, compared to 4.5% before the start of the Great Recession, and 7.3% in April.
  • Nearly half a million Wisconsin residents experienced unemployment at some point in 2010.
  • The official unemployment rate underestimates the size of the problem in a couple of ways: a) it doesn’t count the estimated 1.2% of the Wisconsin workforce categorized as “discouraged” workers since they are no longer actively seeking work, and b) it doesn’t include the 5% of workers who wanted full-time employment in 2010 but were only working part-time (compared to just 2% in 2000).
  • Unemployment is distributed unevenly geographically – with the highest rates across the northern tier of counties and a few southern counties (Milwaukee, Kenosha and Rock).
  • Three sectors of the labor force have been hit especially hard. According to statistics from the Economic Policy Institute, the average unemployment rate for all workers in Wisconsin was 8.7% in 2010, but it was 16.3% for younger workers, ages 16-24; 19.6% for workers who didn’t finish high school; and 25.3% among African Americans.
  • The combined unemployment rate and involuntary part-time rate was 13.8% for all Wisconsin workers in 2010, but 25% for workers between the ages of 16 and 24, 27.3% among workers who didn’t finish high school; and 32.5% for African Americans.

The COWS report concludes: “The unemployed are not the problem. Lack of attention and commitment to building a strong economic recovery is the problem. And until we move more aggressively on that, the unemployed will continue to suffer.”

Jon Peacock

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