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Wisconsin Employment: Employment Drop Revised Away

Summary:
Wisconsin nonfarm payroll employment has stabilized at a level down 4.9%  relative to NBER peak in 2020M02, vs. 5.5% for the nation overall (according to figures released by DWD today). In addition, the downward decline in February of 1.9% (annualized) has been largely revised away — it’s now 0.3% decline (annualized). Figure 1: Nonfarm payroll employment from March release (blue), forecast from March 2021 Economic Outlook (teal squares), forecast from November 2020 Economic Outlook (salmon triangles), all in 000’s, seasonally adjusted. Source: BLS, DWD, and Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Nonfarm payroll employment is currently overshooting the March 31 forecast from the Wisconsin Economic Outlook undershooting the November Wisconsin Economic Outlook forecast, despite upward benchmark

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Wisconsin nonfarm payroll employment has stabilized at a level down 4.9%  relative to NBER peak in 2020M02, vs. 5.5% for the nation overall (according to figures released by DWD today). In addition, the downward decline in February of 1.9% (annualized) has been largely revised away — it’s now 0.3% decline (annualized).

Figure 1: Nonfarm payroll employment from March release (blue), forecast from March 2021 Economic Outlook (teal squares), forecast from November 2020 Economic Outlook (salmon triangles), all in 000’s, seasonally adjusted. Source: BLS, DWD, and Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Nonfarm payroll employment is currently overshooting the March 31 forecast from the Wisconsin Economic Outlook undershooting the November Wisconsin Economic Outlook forecast, despite upward benchmark revisions applying to the series as of January. As of March, NFP employment is about 28.5 13.4 thousand below above the 2021Q1 average from the March 2021 forecast.

Also revised away is the flattening out of manufacturing employment and accommodation and food services employment.

Wisconsin Employment: Employment Drop Revised Away

Figure 2: Wisconsin manufacturing employment from March release (blue), and accommodation and food services employment (red, right log scale), all in 000’s, seasonally adjusted. Source: BLS, and DWD.

Nonetheless, the bifurcated nature of the recovery remains apparent. Accommodation and food service employment remains 17.8% below February 2020 levels. In contrast, manufacturing has largely recovered, at only 1.8% below.

Finally, government employment is far below pre-pandemic levels, driven mostly by the decline in state and local employment.

Wisconsin Employment: Employment Drop Revised Away

Figure 3: Total government employment in Wisconsin (blue), and state and local employment (red), all in thousands, seasonally adjusted. Source: BLS and DWD.

State and local government employment remains 8.7% below 2020M02 levels.

The DWD report COVID-19 Impact: Wisconsin’s Economy and Workforce in 2020(March 25, 2021) discusses the overall Wisconsin economy, and  shows the distribution of employment losses more generally (through December 2020 only).

Notes: Year-on-year percentage point changes. Source: COVID-19 Impact: Wisconsin’s Economy and Workforce in 2020 (March 25, 2021).

Link:  Dept. of Workforce Development, Wisconsin’s Economy and Workforce in 2020 (March 25, 2021).

Link: Dept of Revenue, Wisconsin Economic Outlook (March 31, 2021).

Link: Dept. of Workforce Development, Press Release: BLS Data: Wisconsin Adds 12,900 Total Non-Farm, 11,100 Private-Sector Jobs in March (April 15, 2021).

Menzie Chinn
He is Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

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