The 58,000 Job Question
New Report Takes Comprehensive Look at Weaknesses, Strengths of Wisconsin’s Labor Market
Wisconsin’s economy is adding jobs at a slow pace, wage growth has stalled, and many workers don’t have the security and opportunity they need to get ahead, according to a new Labor Day report released from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS).
The report, “The State of Working Wisconsin, 2014,” provides a thorough examination of Wisconsin job numbers, wages, poverty, and job quality.
The information on Wisconsin job growth that is included in this report is helpful in deciphering the claims of political candidates who have helped bring a great deal of attention to jobs figures. The report notes that in many ways the hardships for Wisconsin workers mirror the troubles in the national economy. But beginning in 2011, rates of job growth in Wisconsin have fallen behind the national average:
“From January 2011 to June 2014, Wisconsin gained 109,200 jobs, posting growth in the labor market of 4.0 percent. Over that same period, the national economy grew by 6.2 percent. If Wisconsin had simply kept pace with national growth, we would have added 167,622 jobs. That difference – 58,422 missing jobs in Wisconsin – suggests that over the last four years, every time Wisconsin added two jobs, the national economy added three.”
Other serious challenges to economic well-being in Wisconsin include:
- Wisconsin needs 130,400 jobs today to get back to the 2007 level of employment, taking into account jobs needed to accommodate population growth since then.
- 175,000 Wisconsin residents are searching for work and unable to find any. Rates of long-term unemployment in Wisconsin have improved little since the worst days of the recession.
- The hourly median wage grew a paltry $0.50 between 1979 and 2013, taking inflation into account.
- Wisconsin women earn just $0.82 for every $1 a man earns.
The Wisconsin economy is not without a few bright spots. Wisconsin residents participate in the labor force at rates much higher than the national average, and Wisconsin’s strong technical college system helps workers get the degrees they need to achieve higher wages.
The outlook for jobs and wages in Wisconsin has improved over the last few years, but too many Wisconsin workers can’t find a job, or are stuck working at low-wage employment without opportunities for advancement. There is plenty of room for improvement, and policymakers can begin by increasing the minimum wage and strengthening our higher education and worker training systems.