Wisconsin’s economic recovery is on an unsteady path, with jobs falling slightly in October. We have come a long way out of the jobs deficit we faced March 2020. But progress ground to halt after early summer with job stagnation or loss each month since August.
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.
Still, unemployment also fell this month to 3.2% and Wisconsinites are more likely to be working than the national average (Wisconsin’s 66.4% labor force participation rate in October 2021 far exceeded the national 61.6%).
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. In the month of October, when many other sectors were shrinking, the industry added jobs. Even so, the industry remains 12.3% below pre-COVID-19 employment levels.
Some sectors have fared better. The state’s manufacturing sector has recovered to its pre-pandemic employment level. Other sectors are down just slightly – Professional and Business Services (down 2%), and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (down 1.1%).
“When will we back to normal?”
While the economy continues to move towards the levels posted before the crisis, “normal” was unsustainable for too many low-wage families before the pandemic. 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).
Learn more in the State of Working Wisconsin.