The State of Working Wisconsin 2015: Facts & Figures

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September 04, 2015
By: Laura Dresser and Joel Rogers, with Javier Rodriguez and Siying Fu

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.