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Manufacturing takes big hit in Evers economy

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 21, 2019

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — Here’s what’s going on in Tony Evers’ economy. 

Unemployment is up, and Wisconsin’s family-supporting manufacturing sector shed more than 2,000 jobs in September, according to the latest data from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. 

The number of jobless residents topped 100,000 last month, the first time since September 2017 unemployment topped six figures, according to Milwaukee Biz Times. 

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate edged up to 3.2 percent, from 3.1 percent in August when Wisconsin’s economy snapped a 13-month streak of 3-percent-or-lower unemployment. 

Sidestepping the troubling trend lines, the Evers administration boasted that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate remained lower than the national rate. 

“September’s labor numbers emphasize the importance that our programming and policies prioritize economic growth for all Wisconsin families and businesses,” DWD Secretary-designee Caleb Frostman said in a press release. “With Wisconsin’s current unemployment rate and the continued workforce shortage, we must ensure all Wisconsinites earn family-supporting wages and benefits. We will continue to enhance our programming to meet the needs of the Wisconsin workforce.” 

But the Evers economy saw the loss of 6,800 family-supporting manufacturing jobs over the year, between September 2018 and last month. Those losses are on Evers’ watch. Last month alone the manufacturing sector shrunk by 2,200 jobs. 

“The bigger issue on the employment side is that employment in manufacturing has just gone in the tank,” said Noah Williams, Juli Plant Grainger professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Putting it all together, it certainly looks at least like a slowdown, if not the start of perhaps significant job loss.” 

The governor likes to blame the Trump administration and the trade wars, but Evers’ policies of expanded regulation and his thwarted proposal to hike taxes on manufacturing and investment earnings have had a chilling effect, economic experts say. 

“Policies do matter and on this you had a governor, starting out very prominently in August of last year, who was running on a platform to repeal the manufacturing and ag tax credit, which we believe has been a game changer for manufacturing in this state,” Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, told Empower Wisconsin earlier this month. 

Total private-sector jobs grew by 1,900 last month, but the state’s labor participation rate remained flat at 67.2 percent, and it’s down by nearly half a percentage point in year-over-year comparisons. 

Government employment, meanwhile, saw the addition of 1,100 jobs. 

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