The State of Working Wisconsin 2012

Biennial report shows no relief for state's workers
September 2, 2012 | COWS Press Release

Contact: Laura Dresser | 608.262.6944 |

Contact: Joel Rogers | 608.262.4266 |

The Great Recession officially ended three years ago now, and the recovery is—or at least should be—well underway. But this Labor Day 2012 finds too many Wisconsin workers waiting, says The State of Working Wisconsin 2012, the ninth edition of the report from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS). They are waiting for an economic recovery strong enough to produce jobs, higher family income, and a growing sense of security.

COWS’ biennial report uses the best and most recent data available to refine our understanding of exactly how working people in Wisconsin are doing. Key findings from this year’s report include:


  • Wisconsin still faces an enormous jobs deficit. In December 2007, Wisconsin had some 2.88 million jobs. In July 2012, the state had just 2.72 million jobs. Wisconsin’s jobs deficit is more than 245,900—the jobs we need to make up for losses over the downturn and population growth since the recession began.
  • Family income fell across the decade. Breaking with the patterns established in 60 years of national economic performance, median income fell over the last ten years. In Wisconsin, the median income of four-person families fell $8,500 from 2000 to 2010.
  • Unemployment remains high. From 2000 to 2011, unemployment doubled, the share of the unemployed who had been out of work for more than six months tripled, and the share of workers who wanted full-time but could only secure part-time hours more than doubled as well.
  • African American unemployment is worst in the nation. In 2011, Wisconsin’s 25 percent unemployment rate for African Americans was the worst in the nation. In addition, median wages for black men and women lag the state’s median wage, and one in four African American workers earn poverty wages.
  • Families with kids in school are in greater financial distress. There has been a breathtaking increase in the share of students throughout the state who qualify for free and reduced-price school lunch, a status based on family income.

The growing share of children and families experiencing financial distress—all across the state—shows two key challenges confronting Wisconsin. First, families, children, and communities are facing the increasing stress of declining financial resources. But at the same time, the schools are stressed as well, with fewer resources to support their increasingly needy student population.

Read the Executive Summary or full report. Or for more information about The State of Working Wisconsin, click here