Jobs: The Long Road to Recovery

October 2011


Despite two years of recovery, Wisconsin has replaced only a quarter of the jobs lost during the downturn.

  • Manufacturing was hardest hit during the recession, but that sector has created nearly 80% of the 24,800 jobs added since June 2009.
  • During 2010-2014, Wisconsin is expected to add about 134,000 jobs, enough to just return to prerecession levels.
  • Wisconsin pay continues to trend lower than the U.S. As of 2010, average wages here were 13.8% less than the national norm.
  • Among the barriers to job creation here is a relative lack of new firm creation. Since 2010, Wisconsin created new firms at a rate more than 25% below the national average.

Many households nationally and in Wisconsin are economically stressed. Unemployment during the recent recession topped 9%. And while the state’s unemployment rate has fallen to under 8%—the ninth best decline among the state—about 100,000 more state residents remain unemployed than when the recession began four years ago. As of late summer, about one in 10 Wisconsin households has someone unemployed.
Adding to the stress has been slow wage growth and falling home values. Prior to the recession, median (half lower, half higher) wage growth averaged 2.5% annually. Since the start of the recession in late 2007, it has averaged only 1.8% per year. Household wealth too has taken a hit, due to a skittish stock market and falling home values. Midwest households estimate that, on average, their home values declined 8.5% between 2007 and 2010. For some, the drop was steeper.
The financial strain is confirmed by changed spending patterns. Households are not only spending less, but they are shifting expenditures from dining out to eating in and from new cars to used ones.
State residents and their leaders both know that relieving this stress requires more jobs, and particularly good-paying jobs. Yet, two years into an economic recovery, questions abound about job creation in Wisconsin. In what industries and in what part of the state are job numbers growing? What do new or existing jobs pay? And what kinds of education or training will be needed by tomorrow’s workforce?