Shrinking Labor Force Helps cut Wisconsin Unemployment Rate to 5%

There is good news in the latest monthly jobs report for Wisconsin. The unemployment rate dropped from 6% in October to 5% in November.

Dig a little deeper, however, and the numbers are not quite as encouraging.

The state’s labor force lost 23,100 people over the month and the labor force participation rate dropped by a half-point to 66.9%. Unemployment was down by 33,000, but employment was up just 9,900, according to place of residence data released by the Department of Workforce Development.

Private sector employment was also down by 1,000, according to a separate survey of businesses used to track job growth.

Wisconsin’s participation rate had dropped from 66.9% at the start of 2020 to a low of 65% in July. It had rebounded since then before dropping in November.

Longer-term, the state’s labor force has been trending down since the mid-1990s. The rate averaged 74.5% in 1997. The average has increased year-over-year only three times since then.