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Laura Dresser, Joel Rogers, and Javier Rodriguez S. | Sep 02, 2016
Category: COWS, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

UPDATE: Read Chapter 4, "Income & Poverty," here.


In The State of Working Wisconsin 2016, COWS finds that the long shadow of the Great Recession is finally lifting in Wisconsin. The state has more jobs than ever before, unemployment rates have fallen to pre-recession levels, and workers that want full-time work are having an easier time finding it. Labor market opportunities are more clear and consistent than they have been in nearly a decade.

Longer-term challenges that Wisconsin faces, long documented by COWS, remain daunting. Wages have been stagnant over the last three and a half decades and workers have very little to show for increasing productivity. Women earn less than men and the gap is slow to close. African Americans have suffered declining wages and growing disparity. The wage reward for higher education is evident, as is the difficulty of making ends meet without completing some post-secondary education. One-in-four workers toils in a poverty wage job and low-wage sectors are growing faster than better-paying ones. Racial disparities, while hardly unique to Wisconsin, are particularly extreme here. A variety of economic and social indicators of racial inequality consistently identify us as among the most racially unequal states in the nation.

View previous State of Working Wisconsin reports here.


Javier Rodriguez S., Laura Dresser | Jul 06, 2016
Category: State & Local Policy, Wisconsin
The most essential challenge in the child care industry is the tension between the demand for more education within the child care teaching workforce and the very low pay-off for that education. A teacher with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education can expect to start at $10.00 per hour and will rarely make more than $13.00 – compared to $18.57 per hour for others in the state workforce who hold an associate degree. The gap for a bachelor’s degree is even larger.

The overwhelming majority of center directors and family providers both report that child care is a harder industry to be in today than three years ago. Center directors point especially to the difficulty attracting and retaining qualified staff. As the economic recovery continues and external job opportunities grow, these challenges are likely to become even more difficult to navigate. This report makes clear the challenge that confronts directors, providers, and teachers, but also
parents and policymakers as well. Child care quality will always be linked to job quality for the child care workforce. 

Wisconsin’s Child Care Workforce focuses on teachers and assistant teachers working at child care centers and self-employed family child care providers throughout the state. It draws on a 2015 survey developed and conducted by the Survey Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWSC) and COWS. Information about child care teachers and assistant teachers was obtained through a survey of child care center directors. Information about family providers was obtained via a survey sent to these providers. The response rate for both centers and family providers was over 60 percent and the samples are representative geographically and in terms of the quality of child care in Wisconsin. 

Jun 28, 2016
Category: COWS, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy
Last month we reported a dramatic job loss of more than 10,000 jobs. This month, the labor market brings better news, with increases that move us back in the right direction. Since last month, Wisconsin added 5,500 jobs. This increase was driven by private sector job growth where 9,700 jobs were added. At the same time, some 4,200 government jobs were lost between April and May. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin dropped two tenths of percentage points and stands now at 4.2%.

Wisconsin Budget Project and COWS | Jun 21, 2016
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy
The economy is growing again, but gains are concentrated on the state’s richest residents. As in the nation, inequality is on the rise. Over the last 40 years, Wisconsin’s richest residents have experienced dramatic increases in income, yet the rest of the state’s residents have experienced little or no income growth. The widening chasm between the very highest earners and everyone else poses hardships for Wisconsin’s families, businesses, and communities. Families can’t thrive when income growth is nearly non-existent for everyone except those at the top, and businesses need a strong middle class bolstered by broad-based income growth to generate customers. Wisconsin communities pay the price if too many families and businesses fail to prosper. Growing income inequality is also bad for Wisconsin’s economic growth. To build a solid, fast-growing economy, we need to make sure that Wisconsin has a healthy, well educated workforce. But if nearly all the gains from economic growth benefit only a few, many Wisconsin residents won’t have the resources they need to become the kind of skilled workers our economy needs for the future. That hurts everyone.
May 26, 2016
Category: COWS, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Wisconsin’s dramatic March job growth was nearly erased by equally dramatic job losses in April, as the state lost nearly 13,000 jobs. The private sector lost 11,500 jobs and the public sector fell by a little more than 1,000. Manufacturing losses of 4,200 jobs were particularly severe. And in contrast to the overall decline, construction gained 3,500 jobs last month. All in all, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin dropped one tenth of a percentage point and stands now at 4.4%. Additionally, over the last year, Wisconsin’s job growth lags behind some of its Midwest neighbors: while Michigan and Indiana have grown at a pace of 2.5% and 1.6% respectively, Wisconsin has grown at a pace slower than 1.5%.


View Wisconsin Job Watch Archives

Satya Rhodes-Conway, Laura Dresser, Mel Meder, and Mary Ebeling | May 23, 2016
Category: COWS, Jobs & Skills, State & Local Policy, High Road, Transportation
During the 20th Century, Pittsburgh was known for the steel industry and the broad middle class prosperity that was shared by many residents. Today, Pittsburgh is in the process of rebuilding its economy around new sectors, such as tech start-ups. The city has found some success in this economic transition, and the population has stabilized as highly educated tech workers move into trendy neighborhoods, but too many working people are being left behind. Residents worry about displacement from their homes and high housing costs, median income has stagnated, and racial disparities persist. The good news is that there are meaningful steps the Mayor and City Council can take to lead the city into an era of fair, inclusive, democratic and economically sustainable growth. Once again, Pittsburgh can become known for a broad middle class prosperity that is shared by many. This report provides recommendations and best practices models for how to take those steps. The vision presented in this report is one in which Pittsburgh is known as the city that rebuilt its economy into one of broadly shared prosperity and strong labor standards; with a housing market that meets the needs of long-term residents while also welcoming newcomers; that offers equitable, accessible and safe transportation choices that connect all residents to employment and other critical destinations; and that prioritizes strong community-police relations with historically marginalized communities of color and new immigrants to ensure Pittsburgh is a most livable city for all residents.
Apr 22, 2016
Category: Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Wisconsin’s labor market grew dramatically in March as nearly 16,000 jobs were added. This is a strong showing and reflect a very significant improvement in the opportunities in the state. The vast majority of new jobs were created in the private sector: private industries contributed about 15,600 jobs, while the public sector added just 300. The employment rate, which has been stable at 4.6% for a year, dropped one tenth of percentage points last month. The current unemployment rate in Wisconsin is 4.5%.


View Job Watch Archives    

Apr 08, 2016
Category: Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Wisconsin added 7,200 jobs in February – one of the largest increases in number of jobs since October of 2015. Growth in February follows on the heels of good news in January as well (jobs up 7,200) and marks a strong start in 2016. Job growth was driven by expansion in the private sector, where 8,000 new jobs were created. (Roughly 800 government jobs were lost.) The unemployment rate held at 4.6% where it has been since mid-2015.

Apr 01, 2016
Category: Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy
Wisconsin’s labor market stalled at the start of 2016, losing 200 jobs according to federal data. Job losses were concentrated in the private sector with two – manufacturing (down 400 jobs) and construction (down 1000) – accounting for the entire private sector decline. Public sector growth of 1,200 jobs largely offset the private sector losses. The state’s job base is growing but only slowly. Compared to a year ago, Wisconsin has 27,000 more jobs today -- growth of less than 1%. The number of jobs available now is just slightly higher than it was in December 2007, just before the Great Recession. Unemployment held steady at a 4.6%. Low unemployment rates imply greater labor market opportunity. There is some national evidence that those who had dropped out of the labor force are being tempted to rejoin it. Sustained low levels of unemployment make this dynamic more likely.

Laura Dresser and Mel Meder | Mar 03, 2016
Category: Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Immigrants have been shaping Wisconsin’s economy since the state’s founding, and it is critical to ensure that today’s immigrants have access to the skills and education that will build shared prosperity and strengthen our economy into the future. This brief provides an overview of demographic trends among the immigrant population, and addresses pressing needs with regard to citizenship, language training, and access to higher education that prevent these working families from thriving economically.