Wisconsin’s construction unemployment ends poorly in 2020

From ABC National

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2021 — Wisconsin’s estimated not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rate in December was 11.7%, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), 4.1% higher than December 2019.  This compares with the overall Wisconsin unemployment rate of 5.3% in the same month. It’s the highest non seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for the state since May, when the rate was 15.2%. April marks the high during pandemic at 18.1%.

The national rate was 9.6%. Over the past several years, Wisconsin was trending much lower than the national rate, but has been trending higher than the national rate over the past several months. Wisconsin’s 11.7% rate in December is 4.1% higher than December 2019 and ranks 38th among the states.  By comparison, Illinois is at 10.2%, Iowa is at 12.4%, Minnesota is at 15.3% and Michigan is at 17.8%.

Wisconsin unemployment rate chart for Dec 2019

From December 2019 to December 2020, the rate rose 4.6%, from 5% to 9.6%. Over that same period, only two states—Nebraska and South Dakota—had lower rates. The rate went from 5.5% in February 2020 to 9.6% in December 2020, up 4.1%. National NSA construction employment was down 125,000 from December 2019.

 “With the distribution of vaccines, there is now a path to defeating COVID-19 and returning the economy and the construction industry to its pre-pandemic levels. The speed with which we enter a new normal depends on how fast these vaccines are delivered and how much of the population is vaccinated,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Federal spending to support the economy is also key. Spending on much-needed repairs to improve the nation’s infrastructure will benefit both the construction industry and the economy’s long-term growth prospects.”

Because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, national and state-level unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis. However, due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, month-to-month comparisons are useful.

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