Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Center on Wisconsin Strategy Report: The State of Working Wisconsin

Selected highlights.

Unemployment:  Stubbornly High
The official unemployment statistic, updated each month, makes the suffering in this labor market clear. Some 239,000 Wisconsinites were actively seeking work but unable to find a job in July 2011. But the reach of unemployment is broader than a single month suggests. Given the flow into and out of unemployment, over the course of a year, unemployment touches many more workers than it does in a single month.

Long-Term Unemployment at Unprecedented Highs
Fully 40 percent of Wisconsin’s unemployed workers have been unemployed for more than six months. For comparison, just 11 percent of the unemployed in 2000 had been seeking work for more than six months. Not only are Wisconsin workers much more likely to be unemployed today, they are also much more likely to stay unemployed for long periods of time.

Unemployment Understates Labor Market Misery.
At some point in their job search, unemployed workers begin to give up. Instead of reporting that they are “actively seeking work” they stop looking for a job. When this happens, the workers are no longer “unemployed” and no longer count in that central statistic of economic suffering.

Weak Labor Market Hits Hardest Those with the Least.
Younger workers and less educated workers also face higher levels of unemployment and involuntary part-time work. And while unemployment for the state is under 8 percent, it is at or over 10 percent for men (10 percent), for workers ages 16-24 (16 percent), for workers with less than a high school education (19 percent), for workers with high school degrees but no additional education (11 percent), for African Americans (25 percent), and for Hispanics (10 percent)..

The Geography of Unemployment.
Unemployment is distributed unevenly across Wisconsin, as the map of July 2011 unemployment by county makes clear. (See Figure 5.) The table shows high unemployment counties which include urban areas that have suffered major manufacturing losses (Rock, Kenosha, and Milwaukee counties, for example) but also more rural counties in the state that are reeling from job losses.

The unemployed are not the problem. Lack of attention and commitment to building a strong economic recovery is the problem. And until we move more aggressively on that, the unemployed will continue to suffer.

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