The State of Working Wisconsin 2017: Facts & Figures

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August 31, 2017
By: Joel Rogers, Laura Dresser
For more than two decades now, annually, on Labor Day, COWS reports on how working people are faring in the state. The State of Working Wisconsin, released biannually on even-numbered years since  1996, is our long-form report, and looks at the economy comprehensively from a working-family perspective. In odd-numbered years, also biannually, we provide a more abbreviated and focused report, called The State of Working Wisconsin 2017: Facts & Figures

In this year’s report, we provide our overview of some of the most critical issues facing working people in the state. The issues, taken together, are daunting – slow growth in the Wisconsin labor market, long-term stagnation in wages, extreme black/white disparity, increasing income inequality, and declining unionization. The report provides a chance to take stock of what the data say about working people in Wisconsin. 

To be sure, there is good news for workers in the state. Unemployment is low and the economy is steadily adding jobs. Given the brutal aftermath of the Great Recession, the low unemployment rate is good news indeed.

But unemployment rate, so often touted by the Governor, is just one indicator; other data helps draw a picture that is more nuanced and markedly less worthy of celebration. Even the rate of unemployment, low overall, is unevenly distributed: in Wisconsin, African American’s are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than whites. Our job growth is steady, but falls short of the national pace. As we’ve long documented, the generational context of slow wage growth and increasing inequality are real and pressing issues in the state as well.