The State of Working Wisconsin 2015

Monday, September 7, 2015 at 9:00 AM by

A new report issued in conjunction with the Labor Day weekend by COWS provides a thorough examination of Wisconsin job numbers, wages, poverty, and job quality, and it provides a sobering assessment of how working people in Wisconsin are doing:

Wisconsin faces slow growth, extreme racial disparity in unemployment, long-term stagnation in wages, and one-fourth of workers struggling in poverty-wage jobs.” 

The new COWS report – The State of Working Wisconsin 2015 – illustrates that as the national economy has gradually rebounded following the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s job growth has lagged behind.  COWS’ analysis concludes that “if Wisconsin had enjoyed the same rate of job growth as the rest of the nation across the course of the recovery, the state would have 90,000 more jobs today.”  The national growth rate from January 2011 through June of this year was 60% faster than the job growth Wisconsin experienced during that time.. 

Some of the other key findings include the following:

  • Nation’s Worst Black Unemployment Rate – Wisconsin had the nation’s highest unemployment rate for African Americans in 2014: 19.9%. That figure is 4.6 times higher than the white unemployment rate (4.3%). 
  • Average Annual Raise: $0.02 per hour – Wisconsin’s median worker earned $17.38 per hour in 2014. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the median wage for Wisconsin workers has gone up just $0.71 per hour over the last 35 years. That amounts to an average annual raise of just two cents. 
  • Women’s Median Wage Relative to Men’s: $0.81 – In 2014, the ratio of women’s to men’s median wages was $0.81, meaning that for every one dollar a man made, a woman made $0.81. (Read more in this recent WI Budget Project Blog post.) 
  • The Low Wage Grind: Over One-in-Four Workers – The report defines the “poverty wage’ in 2014 as $11.55 per hour, because that’s how much a full-time worker needed to make in 2014, working full-time and year-round, to keep a family of four out of poverty. Using that standard, 730,000 Wisconsin workers – or 27% of the whole state workforce – hold poverty wage jobs.  
  • Nearly Twice as Many Economically Disadvantaged Students – More than two of every five students in Wisconsin public schools faced significant financial stress at home, which was up sharply since 2001, when 24% of Wisconsin public school students were economically disadvantaged. By 2013 that number had nearly doubled to 43%.  

Read more in The State of Working Wisconsin 2015 and in our recent blog post explaining how state and federal policy choices are holding back low-income families.   

Jon Peacock

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