Unemployment rates show signs of stabilizing - Paycheck

Unemployment rates show signs of stabilizing

   The unemployment rate in Wisconsin from December 2019 to December 2020 has increased just over two percent. Rates in Green and Rock counties have fluctuated drastically over the last year as well but they are now beginning to show signs of stabilizing.

   “There are slight increases in unemployment numbers in Janesville and Beloit as well as county-wide in Green and Rock counties,” said Tom Pethan, regional labor market economist with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. “The peak of unemployment was in April during the first few weeks of the lockdown and even though numbers have rebounded some since then, they are still higher than pre-covid.”

   The current labor market around the state bears similarities to the Great Recession of 2008, he said. Personal service and high-contact sectors like leisure and hospitality are suffering most while other industries such as construction, transportation and warehousing have experienced booms.

   “Food service and bars are not yet recovered from the year prior,” Pethan said.

   Industries like nail salons, barber shops and dry cleaners around Wisconsin still report high unemployment rates. Covid-19 is the primary influence on these numbers and the fact that people’s tolerance levels are all different when it comes to their own personal safety, he said.

   “We all know we can’t wear a mask when we’re eating, so how well restaurants do depends on how many people are willing to regularly come out and eat,” he said.

   He noted everybody is affected by the pandemic in different ways. The higher paid sectors are more easily able to work from home but employees working at places like water parks and restaurants can’t do their jobs from home, he said.

   “People in various income bands are affected very differently, and service sector jobs can’t be completed remotely,” he said.

   People tend to be spending money on good, wholesome items and experiences now, he said. Executives working from home are pumping money into the economy as they remodel spaces in their homes for offices. They repaint, redecorate and make home improvements they may not have otherwise made.

   “The recovery for harder hit sectors will track with the vaccine and covid-19 progresses,” Pethan said. “If unemployment lingers and there isn’t a speedy recovery in the economy, consumer decisions will be heavily affected.”

   Employers are definitely looking for workers, especially in industries most easily able to adapt to the ever-changing state of the world, he said. Late last week, he found over 1,600 openings posted with the Job Center of Wisconsin in Rock County alone, he said. Those jobs were in healthcare, production, transportation and material moving.

   For more information, visit wisconomy.com.

Mary Hookham

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