Wisconsin Jobs, State Budgets, and Unions: Toward the High Road for the Badger State

Since its inception, COWS has provided reliable data, analysis, and policy ideas for getting Wisconsin on the high road. Our analysis of the economy, The State of Working Wisconsin, issued biennially, provides a comprehensive picture of jobs, wages, and income in the state. Our monthly Wisconsin Job Watch provides timely data on the state's jobs.


Wisconsin is now at the epicenter of a national debate over jobs, unions, and collective bargaining; state budgets, taxes, and fairness; and economic development for working people. COWS has responded with economic analysis and policy ideas to help improve working people's lives, create decent jobs and build stronger communities.


National and state media outlets – including the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – have relied on COWS' analysis and insights on the economic and political situation in the state. In Spring 2012, the journal Social Policy featured COWS' description of Wisconsin's wild year, the policies that are putting Wisconsin on the low-road, and the new ways that community and labor organizations are resisting that agenda.


The Economy and Jobs

The State of Working Wisconsin

The 2012 edition focuses on the elusive recovery and Wisconsin’s jobs picture. An online, interactive data resource accompanies the publication.

Wisconsin Job Watch

This monthly publication provides a snapshot Wisconsin’s gaping job deficit.


Wisconsin's Missing 64,000 Jobs: The Walker Record So Far (May 2012) digs into state jobs numbers and identifies key industries – e.g., the public sector, hospitality, and staffing services – that help explain the state’s weak performance in 2011.


Wisconsin Jobs and Low-Income Working Families (March 2012) provides data and policy ideas to support Wisconsin’s low-income workers.


Wisconsin’s Jobs: Don’t Credit (or Blame) Walker Where He Has No Real Influence (June 2011) takes on the question of how much a difference a governor really can make in the state’s job base. 


Wisconsin’s Gender Wage Gap (with Wisconsin Women’s Council; April 2012) shows that Wisconsin women still earn just 77.8 cents for every dollar a man earns.

State Policy

Wisconsin 2011: New Policies Put the Badger State on the Low Road (July 2011) summarizes changes in the state 2011-13 budget that hurt working people and economic development for the state.


Under Attack: Wisconsin’s Middle Class and the Jobs Crisis (with Demos; June 2011) profiles the decline of Wisconsin’s middle class and the need for more responsive policy to support the state's working families.


The Wisconsin Values Budget: Better Choices for Wisconsin (with Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and Institute for Wisconsin’s Future; May 2011) offers an alternative and more balanced response to Wisconsin’s budget shortfall.


Wisconsin’s Public Employees: A Foundation for Quality of Life in the State (May 2011) provides a profile of the public sector workforce and their earnings, and describes the impact of state policy changes on their wages.


The Wisconsin Retirement System is One of the Healthiest in the Country (March 2011) reviews details on the strength of the state’s retirement system.


Wisconsin Public-Sector Workers are Under-Compensated Compared to their Private-Sector Counterparts (February 2011) shows that, contrary to popular rhetoric, public employees actually make less than comparable private-sector workers.

More Publications >>



Other COWS program areas with work focused on Wisconsin include jobs and skills, and energy efficiency with Wisconsin cities and rural electric cooperatives.