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Oct 30, 2015
Category: Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

The upward trend in Wisconsin continued in September. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Wisconsin added 1,400 jobs that month. The pace of job growth in September was much slower than that established in the previous two months when Wisconsin added14,000 (in July) and 7,000 jobs (in August). Still it is good to see consistently positive numbers, even if a slow pace. In Wisconsin, eight years after the beginning of the Great Recession, the number of jobs is, at last, defintely and consistently above the pre-recession level.


However, since the population of the state has grown steadily since the end of the recession, our labor market still has not fully recovered. If we aspire to the same level of opportunity that Wisconsin had before the recession we need to create jobs on pace with population growth. As our job market has not kept pace, Wisconsin still shows a deficit of 102,000 jobs. 


View Job Watch Archives

Laura Dresser | Oct 19, 2015
Category: COWS, Jobs & Skills, Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies
Care workers—including providers of both child care and hands-on direct care supporting the elderly and people with disabilities—number 5.5 million and are employed in some of the fastest growing and lowest paying jobs in the American economy. Their “priceless” work, of such critical importance to families and society, rarely offers more than miserable wages and shoddy benefits. Improving these jobs and securing a decent standard of care requires fundamentally and dramatically reshaping the nation’s understanding of what care work is, what it is worth, and how to pay for it. 

Raising job quality and the standard of care requires a substantial infusion of public money and a simple and direct means of delivering that investment directly to care workers. To get there, we will need to connect to and build upon the important work already being done by coalitions on care work throughout the nation. Child care and health care workers, as well as their advocates and unions, need to be increasingly connected to city and state minimum wage campaigns to ensure that care workers are covered by increases, and to begin securing public and private resources needed to make higher wages for care workers a reality. These connections can provide a foundation to build stronger and more comprehensive community care work infrastructure that can identify, organize, and rationalize the work; develop systems to provide health insurance or other benefits directly to care workers; and build the case, constituency, and infrastructure for the transformation of these jobs.

This paper is released as part of the Roosevelt Institute's larger report, Blueprint to Empower Workers to Shared Prosperity, October 7, 2015.
Oct 08, 2015
Category: Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Wisconsin’s unsteady labor market finally added jobs in July which offers good news in the face of the decline in jobs since March. In June, Wisconsin had the same number of jobs that it had at the beginning of the 2015 which was also and finally the same as number the state had before the recession began (December 2007). Over the last two months of summer, July and August 2015, some 20,000 jobs were added in the state. Wisconsin is now solidly above pre-recession levels, and also hopefully on a consistently positive job growth path as well. It is good news that Wisconsin’s labor market is finally larger than it was nearly 8 years ago. Still, the potential labor force in the state is much larger than it was in the past, and the jobs we have today are not sufficient to keep up with our population growth. As Figure and Table 1 make clear, Wisconsin still faces a significant jobs deficit and needs stronger growth to fill that gap. In order to simply provide the same opportunity that we had in 2007, Wisconsin’s “jobs deficit” now stands at around 102,000 jobs.


Wisconsin Job Watch Archives>>

Laura Dresser and Chris Reynolds | Sep 23, 2015
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

This report analyzes paid family leave insurance could look like in Wisconsin. Paid leave insurance allows workers to take short-term paid leave in order to care for their families without fear of losing their jobs or significant loss of income. This is a policy that helps workers balance both work and family, and programs are already well established in California and New Jersey. Building off the experience in those two states, we estimate utilization and financing for a Paid Leave Insurance program for the state. Such a program would likely grow to support some 100,000 working Wisconsinites each year and could be supported by a premium on wages of 0.4 percent.

Paid leave is especially critical for the nearly three-in-ten working families in the state who have low income (below twice the poverty line) in spite of their strong commitment to work. For these families, sick and vacation leave is stingy or nonexistent, reliable day care for children or adults is prohibitively expensive, and workers themselves are more likely to have health challenges.

In this report, we draw on the experience of other states to simulate the costs and benefits of a prospective paid family leave insurance program in the state. Our work suggests that, with a modest premium on employee wages, a program could be designed that could support working families in the state when family needs are most pronounced. We hope that this data can help make the idea of paid leave insurance more concrete and the choices—and their associated costs and benefits—more clear.
Laura Dresser and Joel Rogers, with Javier Rodriguez and Siying Fu | Sep 04, 2015
Category: Jobs & Skills, State & Local Policy, Wisconsin

The State of Working Wisconsin 2015For Labor Day weekend, COWS has released The State of Working Wisconsin 2015 Facts & Figures, an overview of the critical issues facing working people in the state. From the perspective of working Wisconsin, the news this weekend is not good. Wisconsin faces slow growth, extreme racial disparity in unemployment, long-term stagnation in wages, and one-fourth of workers struggling in poverty-wage jobs.


Further highlights from the report:


Missing Jobs: 90,000

If Wisconsin had enjoyed the same rate of job growth as the rest of the nation across the course of the recovery, the state would have 90,000 more jobs today.


Nation’s Worst Black Unemployment Rate: One-in-five

Wisconsin posted the nation’s highest unemployment rate for African Americans in 2014: 19.9 percent. That rate is 4.6 times higher than the white unemployment rate.


Average Annual Raise: $0.02 per hour

Wisconsin’s median worker now earns $17.38 per hour. Over the last 35 years, the inflation adjusted median wage for workers in Wisconsin has gone up just $0.71 per hour. That’s an annual raise of just $0.02/hour.


Women’s Median Wage Relative to Men’s: $0.81

In 2014, the ratio of women’s to men’s median wages was $0.81, meaning that for every one dollar a man made, a woman made $0.81.


The Low Wage Grind: Over One-in-Four Workers

More than 1 in 4 workers who work at an hourly wage of $11.55 or lower, even full-time and year-round, cannot keep a family of four out of poverty. 730,000 Wisconsin workers – 27 percent of the entire state workforce – hold poverty wage jobs.


Nearly Doubled: Share of Wisconsin Students Economically Disadvantaged


In 2001, one-in-four Wisconsin public school students in Wisconsin were economically disadvantaged. By 2013, that number nearly doubled to 43 percent. Two of every five students in our public schools faces significant financial stress at home.


“We’ve all been hoping for an economic recovery strong enough to lift wages and income,” stated Laura Dresser, Associate Director at COWS, “Unfortunately, we’re just not seeing it in 2015, and this Labor Day, we’re still waiting for good news. But the national momentum toward a minimum wage increase is very good news. And as attention grows around the need to invest in our educational systems, this also holds promise for Wisconsin’s workers and future.”


Since 1996, COWS has released The State of Working Wisconsin every two years on Labor Day. It provides use the best and most recent data available to help build a comprehensive understanding of how working people in the state are doing. The full report comes out in even years. In odd years, like this one, 2015, the report is abbreviated and more focused. 


View previous State of Working Wisconsin reports here.

Aug 18, 2015
Category: Jobs & Skills, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy
After a very dramatic loss in the number of jobs in the month of May, June brings slightly better news for the state of Wisconsin. In June, the state added 1,900 new jobs. On net, however, the Wisconsin job market of 2015 has been largely stagnant. This last month, in the middle of the year, Wisconsin posted 2,882,000 jobs, a number only slightly higher than the state’s January count. And, in fact, the number is just barely higher than the number of jobs Wisconsin had when the recession began over seven years ago. And because the population of the state has grown over those years, Wisconsin remains substantially short of the number of jobs needed to keep opportunity in line with 2007 levels. The Wisconsin “jobs deficit” still stands at 115,700. At the current rate of growth, it would take Wisconsin another 5 years to fill our jobs hole. 

Satya Rhodes-Conway, Peter Bailon, Sam Munger, Chris Reynolds | Jul 22, 2015
Category: Jobs & Skills, State & Local Policy, High Road, Transportation, Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies
The District of Columbia is going through a period of great transformation. While it has successfully strengthened its fiscal health and its economy and population have grown, its prosperity has not been evenly distributed. However, it is not too late for the District to adopt measures that strengthen low income communities and communities of color and push back against the trend of growing inequality. The new administration has a fresh opportunity to tackle these challenges. It will be essential that key leaders in the administration are driven by a strong vision for how to make the District work for all of its residents.
Laura Dresser and Jody Knauss | Jun 29, 2015
Category: COWS

The purpose of this paper is to provide an accessible overview of child care with a special focus on the child care workforce in the United States in 2014. The broad questions that guide this document are:

• What does the industry “look like”? What does this mean for workers in
child care?

• How has it changed and not changed over recent decades? And how have
the skills and pay of workers changed, or not?

• What are the strongest ways to enhance workers’ skills and wages building
around an agenda of quality care and quality jobs for the future in child

Winnie Karanja, Laura Dresser, and Michele Mackey | Jun 09, 2015
Category: Jobs & Skills: Workforce Development & Industry Partnerships, State & Local Policy, Wisconsin
The national economic recovery is gaining speed and Wisconsin workers and firms are increasingly feeling the relief, and the state’s ability to build industry-needed skills of the workforce is becoming an increasingly critical shared priority. Workers have jobs but need stronger skills. Firms need a skilled workforce that can adapt
as opportunity evolves. Fortunately, an impressive infrastructure to support the development of workers skills has taken shape over the last decade in Wisconsin. Critical here is the strong but perhaps too little known work of the state’s technical colleges in paving the pathways from basic skills to meaningful credentials. Also essential have been efforts to build stronger connections to employers through training funds like Fast Forward, through the development of industry partnerships within regions, and through the increasing connection of career pathways at tech colleges to unmet and emerging industry needs.

For Wisconsin workers and employers to thrive in the 21st Century, this critical progress in skills and talent infrastructure must be supported, connected, amplified and extended. Wisconsin is a national leader – in career pathways, in tech college training for displaced and other workers, and in industry/employer driven training investments in the “Fast Forward” grant program for demand-driven training). This infrastructure can help connect the unemployed to work, the underemployed to the skills they need to move toward self-sufficiency, and the state’s employers to relevant strategies for developing their own workers’ skills as well. This infrastructure is critical for advancing Wisconsin’s competitive position and for providing low-wage workers a stronger pathway to self-sustaining jobs.

This paper provides an overview of these programs and initiatives, the need for them, and opportunities to strengthen them. Our focus is building on Wisconsin’s strengths so that opportunity and career pathways can yield improved outcomes for low-skilled workers while simultaneously meeting the skill needs of employers in the state.
Samira Salem, Laura Dresser, and Michele Mackey | Jun 09, 2015
Category: Jobs & Skills: Workforce Development & Industry Partnerships, State & Local Policy, Wisconsin
In 2013, Wisconsin launched Fast Forward, a $15 million state investment in demand driven worker training. By mid-December 2014, the Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) worker training program planned to distribute approximately $10.4 million in worker training grants and was preparing to announce additional grants for the remaining nearly $3.6 million. Fast Forward is an unprecedented investment in Wisconsin and skills. It is an exciting step forward to build the skills that both workers and employers need in this state. Direct employer engagement in all stages of the WFF process helps ensure the relevance of the skills training delivered.

With this brief, we seek to offer some assessment of WFF’s experience to date, to identify ways that it meets its critical goals, and to propose relevant areas for refinement and other improvement of practice and policy. We will pay special attention to the way this program fits into the broader policy and program context for skills in the state. The sustainability and system impact of these investments will be amplified by steps that ensure WFF is integrated into the state’s skills ecosystem, rather than a stand-alone program outside of it.