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Home sales: The latest monthly numbers from the Wisconsin Realtors Association show sales of existing homes were up in June compared to the same month last year — the first time the state’s seen year-over-year gains so far in 2014. Home sales rose 4.5 percent compared to June 2013, while median prices also rose 0.6 percent over the same period to $159,900. WRA officials noted Wisconsin typically sees about 11.5 percent of its annual home sales in June, making it the most important month to see strong sales numbers. Still, they noted weaker sales in the first five months of the year — attributed, in part, to harsh winter and spring weather — will likely continue to put a damper on the state’s numbers overall. For the first six months of the year, sales were still down 4.9 percent compared to the first six months of 2013.
Trek: The Waterloo-based corporation — the second-largest bicycle manufacturer in the world — has long been one of the state’s most high-profile and respected companies. But it now finds itself in the middle of the campaign silly season as the race for governor heats up. Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign launched a pair of TV ads this month accusing Dem rival Mary Burke — a former Trek executive and daughter of the company’s founder — of profiting from Trek shipping jobs overseas. Burke’s campaign fires back in an ad that Trek employs 1,000 Wisconsinites and makes more bikes in the U.S. than any other company, while pointing out that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. — championed by the Walker administration — has allocated funding to companies that outsourced jobs. Walker says he’s not making a judgment on the merits of outsourcing or attacking Trek as a company — only pointing out Burke’s hypocrisy on issues such as outsourcing and raising the minimum wage. The Walker ad, however, prompts Trek CEO John Burke — Mary’s brother — to call the ad “embarrassing,” saying Trek couldn’t exist in Wisconsin without its activity in China and other countries. A full-page ad defending Trek, meanwhile, sparks a complaint from the state Republican Party, which argues it amounted to an illegal contribution to Burke’s campaign. Observers say Walker appears to be taking a calculated risk as polls continue to show a close race, but even some conservatives decry the spots, saying they mirror campaign attacks from the Obama administration in the 2012 campaign.
Jobs: Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was estimated at 5.7 percent in June, according to the latest monthly estimates from the Department of Workforce Development. That’s the same rate as May, but the estimates also show the state lost 1,200 private sector jobs compared to revised May levels. One week later, DWD estimates at the local level paint a more bleak picture, with the unemployment rate up in 61 of 72 counties and in all 32 of the state’s largest cities tracked by the agency. The 11 counties that didn’t see an increase maintained the same unemployment level as May. Racine had the highest unemployment rate among cities at 10.4 percent, while the northern counties of Menominee and Iron had the highest rates at 17.8 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively.