Manufacturing Jobs Bleeding Out of WI, MI, PA



By Jonathon Sadowski

January 26, 2020

States key to Trump’s 2016 win are lagging much of the country

Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector lost an estimated 4,100 jobs in 2019, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported by Bloomberg.

Between December 2018 and December 2019, the total number of employed Wisconsinites decreased by about 5,500 overall — a 0.17 percent drop — while unemployment increased from 3.0 to 3.4 percent, the data released Jan. 24 shows. Conversely, unemployment rates fell in eight states year-over-year.

“Manufacturing didn’t finish off the year very strongly,” said Bret Mayborne, director of economic research for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. “We saw fairly consistent year-over-year job losses in manufacturing over pretty much the last half of 2019.”

Other key indicators of economic strength such as average length of the workweek and wages were down year-over-year as well, Mayborne added. A Milwaukee BizTimes’ report on the BLS goes on to note that Wisconsin’s total year-over-year job growth was the slowest recorded since 2010. 

Local manufacturers are headed into 2020 with a hint of optimism because of the partial resolution of the trade war between the U.S. and China last month, he said. Though others say their optimism is guarded based on previous deals in which China backtracked on promises.

Nationwide, manufacturers added 46,000 jobs year-over-year, good for a 0.36 percent increase. That contributes to the manufacturing recovery that has resulted in near-constant job growth since 2010. But states across the Midwest, not just Wisconsin, actually lost manufacturing jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pennsylvania lost 5,700 factory jobs, Michigan lost 5,300 jobs, and losses were also recorded in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

Nick Novak, vice president of communications and marketing for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce association, said there may not be much cause for alarm. He pointed to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ quarterly census and employment of wages, or QCEW, which most recently showed Wisconsin adding just over 9,500 manufacturing jobs between June 2018 and June 2019.

“We don’t see any reason to be concerned about the jobs numbers,” Novak said. “When we look at the QCEW data … we’re seeing a lot of optimism moving into 2020.” Many employers have told WMC that they cannot find enough workers, Novak added. 

The BLS calls the QCEW “the most complete set of monthly employment” data, though the monthly employment estimates — such as those released Friday — are still based on a survey of 689,000 employers.




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