Wisconsin’s economic recovery from COVID-19 gained steam in November with the state adding 10,200 jobs. We have come a long way out of the massive jobs hole created in March 2020. Job growth has not been steady and consistent, so it is good to see these additional jobs which leave the state 3.5% behind the total jobs from before the pandemic.
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. Critically, the Child Tax Credit ended in 2022, leaving families vulnerable in the depth of winter.
Still, unemployment also fell this month to 3%, 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 61.8%).
The Leisure and Hospitality Industry— restaurants, bars, hotels, etc.—has been the hardest hit.
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 greatest dislocation.
In April 2020, at the depth of the crisis, more than half of the workers in this industry lost their jobs. The industry has been moving slowly out of that hole since collapse, though there has been a lot of volatility within the sector. In November 2021, the industry added 6,700 jobs. Even so, the industry remains 9.7% below pre-COVID-19 employment levels.
Some sectors have fared better. The state’s manufacturing and construction sectors have recovered to pre-pandemic employment levels. Other sectors are down just slightly – Professional and Business Services (down 1.4%), and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (down 1.0%).
“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).