Worker Experiences

COVID-19 is transforming work more rapidly than standard data can track. Workers’ lives provide a more immediate picture. We’ve spoken to workers in various sectors and across the state to better understand what the economy looks like for these workers, as well as the impact on workers of policies (or lack thereof) at the state and federal levels. We are grateful to the workers who shared their experience with us.

Mariah on Risks to Healthcare Workers

"We were being exposed and we were worried about running out of [protective equipment]."

Miriam on Furloughs and Childcare

"It was tough because I didn’t get unemployment or the stimulus check help for the virus going on."

Tom on the Entertainment Industry during COVID-19

When you talk about Broadway closing down, the restaurants, the hotels, the workers, the actors, the crew – it’s just a huge snowball..."

Tom Kastle playing guitar

Troy on Old Inequalities Under the Pandemic

"From the 30 years that I’ve been working in hospitality, I say: ‘I’m always bringing something to the table, always putting something on the table. Why won’t they ever let me eat?’”

Lisa on Nursing Home Care Work

“Our residents don't have anybody anymore but us. They are isolated from their families, their friends, their loved ones – everybody that they are used to being with,”

Demetrica on PPE for Healthcare Workers and Accessing Assistance

“They’re making it very hard to live right now.”

Anthony on Union Support and Black Lives Matter

“We had a good team and a nice support system with our union.”

Michael on Essential and Exposed Work

"It’s much riskier now and it’s not worth it. I know I’m gonna have to find a new profession.”

Learn More about Working Wisconsin's Economy

An Unprecedented Era

In just a few months, COVID-19 upended the Wisconsin economy. The crisis has touched nearly every worker. Read more about why we created the digital State of Working Wisconsin.


The pandemic has worsened racial disparities

Before the COVID-19 crisis, Black-white disparities in Wisconsin were among the worst in the nation. COWS documented these disparities in our 2019 report, Race in the Heartland.


  • October 2021 Data Analysis

    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 …

  • September 2021 Data Analysis

    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 …

  • Seven people standing on a rooftop, wearing safety gear.

    August 2021 Data Analysis

    In March 2020, the US took dramatic steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. States issued stay-at-home orders, the economy contracted dramatically, jobs plummeted, and unemployment spiked. After the collapse, the economy improved rapidly in …

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