Brian Dake

U.S. Economy Adds 2.5 Million Jobs in May, Unemployment Rate Falls to 13.3%

The U.S. economy added 2.5 million jobs last month as the nation began its recovery from the coronavirus crisis, the feds said Friday.

The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 13.3 percent thanks to “a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed” because of the pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly jobs report.

That marked an improvement from the record 14.7 percent unemployment seen in April  and defied expectations for the virus-related job losses to worsen. Economists predicted a 19.8 percent unemployment rate and 8 million lost jobs.

Some parts of the country have allowed businesses to reopen that had closed to control the spread of the deadly virus. Other parts of the economy also hinted at recovery in May, with consumer confidence and manufacturing activity both improving.

Report: Wisconsin Wages, Income Should Rebound in 2021

Wisconsin’s income levels and wages should rebound next year after the coronavirus pandemic crippled the state’s economy, according to a report Gov. Tony Evers’ administration released Tuesday.

The analysis from the state Department of Revenue notes that Wisconsin lost 440,000 jobs in April, more than twice the number of jobs the state lost during the Great Recession.

Personal income levels in the state grew 4% in 2019, but that growth will slow to 0.2% in 2020 and 1.6% in 2021. Real personal income grew 2.7% in 2021 and should decline by 0.5% in 2020 but grow by that amount in 2021. In all, total personal income should recover to pre-pandemic levels by the second quarter of 2021.

Wage income, meanwhile, grew 3.2% in Wisconsin last year. It’s projected to decrease 9% this year but after bottoming out in the third quarter should post annual growth rates of 7% next year.

Private employment will post a decline of 16.1% this year and 4.4% growth in 2021. The manufacturing sector is expected to shed 114,000 jobs during the second and third quarters this year but should start adding jobs by the end of the year.

Debate over $600 in Jobless Aid to Intensify as Claims Rise

A debate in Congress over whether to extend $600 a week in federally provided benefits to the unemployed looks sure to intensify with the number of people receiving the aid now topping 30 million — one in five workers.

Democrats have proposed keeping the $600-a-week payments through January in a $3 trillion relief package that the House approved this month along party lines. Senate Republicans oppose that measure. They have expressed concern that the federal payments — which come on top of whatever unemployment aid a state provides — would discourage laid-off people from returning to jobs that pay less than their combined state and federal unemployment aid now does.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, are promoting a plan that would provide $450 a week for laid-off workers who return to their jobs, as a “back to work” bonus. This payment would also expire by July 31, though.

Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, said earlier this week that the proposal is “something we’re looking at very carefully.”

Separately, Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, has proposed reducing the $600 benefit to $300 in stages by the end of the year. This plan, Beyer suggested in an interview, would sharply reduce the number of people who are receiving more money from jobless aid than they would from working.

“If you solve that problem, there’s a good chance of extending unemployment,” Beyer said.

A Glimmer of Good News on Unemployment in Wisconsin

It is hard to find much, if any, good news in the data on Wisconsin’s labor market since mid-March.

Initial unemployment claims skyrocketed to 51,000 in the third week of March and then more than doubled to almost 111,000 the next week.

What’s the good news? The number of continuing claims has trended downward since hitting that peak. Even better news is that it saw its largest drop yet last week, a 5.1% decline from the prior week to reach 292,699.

The drop comes in the first full week after the state’s Safer at Home order was struck down by a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, allowing many businesses to reopen depending on their local rules.

Governor Announces $200 Million “Routes to Recovery: Local Government Aid Grants Program”

Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers announced the launch of the “Routes to Recovery: Local Government Aid Grants” program, a $200 million effort aimed at helping local leaders address some of their most urgent and unique COVID-19 recovery needs. Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), Routes to Recovery Grants will be allocated to every Wisconsin county, city, village, town and federally recognized tribe.

The effort is funded by $200 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars. Of the $200 million, $10 million will be allocated to Wisconsin’s tribal nations, with the remaining funds being distributed to every Wisconsin county, city, village and town.

Routes to Recovery Grants for Wisconsin counties, cities, villages and towns will provide reimbursements for unbudgeted expenditures incurred this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the following categories:

  • Emergency operations activities, including those related to public health, emergency services, and public safety response
  • Purchases of personal protective equipment
  • Cleaning/sanitizing supplies and services, including those related to elections administration
  • Temporary isolation housing for infected or at-risk individuals
  • Testing and contact tracing costs above those covered by existing State programs
  • FMLA and sick leave for public health and safety employees to take COVID-19 precautions
  • Meeting local match requirements for expenses submitted for reimbursement by FEMA, to the extent allowed by federal law

WEDC Announces the Main Street Marketplace

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation announced Tuesday a new online retail portal called the Main Street Marketplace, which is available now to connect shoppers with more than 230 Main Street businesses across Wisconsin.

The website provides a database of locally owned shops across Wisconsin. Shoppers can choose to search by geography or by product category on the site The Main Street Marketplace was created to help businesses affected by the pandemic who have difficulty updating customers on changes in product availability.

To be listed, the shops must be in one of the 34 Wisconsin Main Street communities. Additional offerings will be added in the future.

Wisconsin Main Street is a community development program administered by the WEDC that targets Wisconsin’s historic commercial districts with a goal to revitalize their business districts.

To visit the online portal, visit: www.mainstreetwi.com.

Wisconsin Order Halting Evictions Expires Tuesday

Those who haven’t been able to pay rent during the pandemic could be facing eviction, starting this week.

A state order halting evictions expires Tuesday. Landlords whose tenants have not been paying rent, can file eviction notices.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers announced a $25 million rent assistance program last week, to help those in need.

The state has the federal money now, but officials are still setting up the program to share it

“Early next month we believe that money will be accessible by the folks that need it,” Gov. Evers said Wednesday.

The Evers administration says when the program is ready, renters will be able to apply through local housing assistance organizations. If eligible, they could qualify for up to $3,000.

Economy Sliding, But Home Purchase Costs Rising

As Wisconsin moved into the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy fell in April, an odd thing happened in the real estate market: home prices rose.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association releases monthly sales and price numbers. Consulting economist David Clark says existing home sales fell nearly seven percent in April, compared to April 2019. Realtors expected with the economy slumping the market would fall. But Clark says tightening numbers of homes for sale drove the median price up about 7 percent over the past year.

He says the tight inventory won out…

“While there’s a balancing act here, it looks like the ‘supply effect’, the significant reduction in the number of homes for sale continued to put upward pressure on prices….”

Clark says the peak sales times are May through August so the slumping economy will likely lead to a slower summer sales time. But if buyers are interested and can find a property, it’s a good time to finance…

“This is about the best time in the last 50 years to get a mortgage. Mortgage rates dropped to the lowest levels since we started tracking 30-year fixed rate mortgage data back in 1971…”

Current mortgage rates are around three percent.

Governor Announces $50 million Relief for Farmers, $15 million for Food Security Initiative

Wisconsin’s governor has announced $50 million in relief for Wisconsin farmers and $15 million food security initiative.

In a Wednesday release, Governor Tony Evers announced the Wisconsin Farm Support Program, a $50 million investment to provide direct payments to Wisconsin farmers in support of the agriculture sector during the coronavirus pandemic and a $15 million Food Security Initiative to combat hunger in the state.

Eligible farmers will be asked to apply for the aid through the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, which is working in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Farm support payments could begin arriving as early as June.

A  portion of the $15 million funding for the Food Security Initiative will go toward helping food banks, pantries, and other nonprofit organizations fighting food insecurity adapt to challenges posed by the coronavirus. The initiative will emphasize the importance of prioritizing the use of Wisconsin products wherever possible in feeding citizens who find themselves in need of support. Applicants are strongly encouraged to partner with local food experts to aid in connecting with farmers in their area.

DWD Detects, Prevents Fraud Against UI Program

DWD has identified 342 unsuccessful attempts to access the system with a stolen social security number as of May 15. Out of the 1.4 million claims totaling more than $1.1 billion that the Department has paid since March 15, DWD has flagged 171 claims as potential fraud with payments estimated to be around $26,000.

The instances of fraud that began in late March involve an individual using another’s identity in an attempt to claim benefits on their behalf.

The bad actors have stolen personal information from sources outside of the agency, such as from massive external data breaches like the Equifax breach, and then use it to apply for benefits and attempt to route those payments to their own bank accounts. DWD’s anti-fraud team recognizes this imposter fraud from past attacks on the system.

“While DWD has a litany of tools at its disposal to detect fraud against the program and will continue to diligently defend the UI trust fund,” Frostman said, “we ask for the public’s assistance in reporting any suspected instances of fraud, such as if you receive mail incorrectly indicating you have applied for UI benefits.”

The public can learn more about how to recognize and report suspected fraud at https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/fraud/.