Going Low, Going High


May 2017’s unemployment rates for Wisconsin counties and large cities were released by the state’s Department of Workforce Development on June 21st. The state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 3.1% came out a week earlier. if the seasonally adjusted components are not factored in, Wisconsin’s rate of 2.8 percent is even lower.

The suggested theme here is Going Low.

St. Croix’s rate for May is estimated at 2.5 percent, making it the tenth-lowest in the state. Perennial frontrunner Dane County led the way at 2.2 percent.

May’s rates are low all across the board – 47 counties were at 2.9 percent or lower; 50 counties were at 3.0 percent or lower; 70 were at 4.0 percent or lower. Impressive, considering Wisconsin has 72 counties. Going Low.

Large cities are in the same low ebb, led by the Madison area. Sun Prairie reported an unemployment rate of 2.1 percent, followed by Fitchburg at 2.2 percent, Madison, also at 2.2 percent, and several, including nearby Eau Claire, came in at 2.5 percent. The highest rate reported for a large city in May was Beloit at 4.7 percent.

The state’s top elected official may have referred to the late musical artist Prince and his famous “1999” hit when Wisconsin’s rate was released. The last time Wisconsin’s rate matched 3.1 percent was in October 1999 . . . . Party like it’s 1999. The historical low rate for Wisconsin was 3.0 percent in May-July 1999. Going Low.

Social media from Madison announced the state’s 3.1 percent unemployment rate as seventh-lowest in the U.S. and the percentage of Wisconsin working age residents who are either a) employed, or b) unemployed but looking for a job, as the nation’s fifth-best, estimated at 68.8 percent. Economists call this the labor force participation rate. By comparison, the U.S. participation rate is 62.7 percent. The higher the percentage, the more working age people are engaged in the workforce. Going High.

Statistics can mean just about anything their creators wish. More numbers to ponder. A while back, Wisconsin crossed a mythical threshold when three million residents were employed for the first time ever. The most current estimate is 3,059,000 people at-work in the state. Going High.

Hmm. Low unemployment and high labor force work participation? Nearly across the board, employers struggle to find new workers. Years prior, labor force analysts predicted more people would leave the workforce through retirement than new workers would enter. Their prediction proved correct.

Young adults coming out of high school, technical college, college, university, and even the military can find opportunities nearly wherever they choose.

Low Unemployment, High Participation. Whether it’s Going Low or Going High, here’s to continued economic success.