The economic recovery continues to sputter. Good news in May-June was interrupted by slower growth later in the summer. Federal investments in recovery continue to support Wisconsin’s families and children. But some of the programs that support the most vulnerable – expanded Unemployment Insurance (UI), eviction moratoriums, etc.— have ended. In August, the Wisconsin economy lost jobs again. By September, there were no losses but also no jobs gained. For working Wisconsin, there’s no crystal ball about where we’ll be in a few months.
The Leisure and Hospitality Industry — restaurants, bars, hotels, etc. – has been the hardest hit in the COVID-19 economic crisis.
Even before the collapse, the industry’s workforce of waitstaff, bartenders, dishwashers, housekeepers, and others suffered low-wages, volatile and unpredictable hours, and few benefits. Workers in this industry – more likely to be women and people of color – suffered the dislocation of the crisis.
In April 2020, at the depth of the crisis, more than half of workers in this industry lost their jobs. The industry has been moving slowly out of that hole since collapse, though there has been volatility in the sector with months of loss and growth across the year. The industry remains 15.5% below pre-COVID-19 employment levels.
Some sectors have fared better. The states manufacturing sector has recovered to its pre-pandemic employment level. Other sectors are down just slightly — Professional and Business Services (down 1.4%), and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (down 0.9%).
“When will we back to normal?”
The economy continues to move towards the levels posted before the crisis. So normal is, perhaps, on the horizon. But “normal” for low-wage workers was unsustainable, leaving too many families struggling to get by. It is too early to know what the new ‘normal’ will be, but it is easy to identify what the new normal should hold. Working Wisconsin needs a new normal for our low-wage service jobs, with better wages, more predictable schedules, and stronger benefits. Working Wisconsin also needs a new normal with strong public health, accessible health insurance, and affordable and high-quality care for kids (with decently paid providers). These are the directions that could help solve problems so consistently documented in the State of Working Wisconsin.