State’s March unemployment rate estimated at 26.8 percent

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Gov. Tony Evers blames Wisconsin’s projected 27 percent unemployment rate on COVID-19 and says containing coronavirus is necessary to prevent the rate from getting even worse.

After boiling down national unemployment predictions, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development projects March’s unemployment rate to reach 26.8 percent.

“This is a direct result of a fight with a virus and our ability to contain that virus so that we don’t have a 50 percent unemployment rate,” Evers said Friday in a Department of Health Services press call.

And according to the Evers administration, the unemployment situation in the state is similar to the rest of the country.

“We are seeing historic claims — I think nationally we saw back to back weeks of greater than six million new, initial unemployment claims,” said DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman in a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce webinar. “We are seeing similar historic numbers in Wisconsin.”

National projections show that 29 percent of privately held establishments will shut down, according to Tyler Tichenor, a DWD spokesman. “We assume shutdowns are proportionately distributed across firm employment size.”

That means 48,619 Wisconsin business establishments would be closed, affecting 724,362 employees.

“Using the 724,362 figure of out-of-work employees against the latest February Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) workforce number of 3,109,100 yields an unemployment rate of 23.3 percent,” said Tichenor.

“If we add in the 108,900 already unemployed in the February LAUS report, the unemployment rate would stand at approximately 26.8 percent,” he said.

“We have to make sure unemployment insurance is there for people,” said Evers, adding that people need to be able to get unemployment “right away” instead of waiting a week.

“But at the end of the day, that unemployment rate is not what we want,” he said. “The way that we solve that is to take on the public health emergency in the most proactive way possible to bring people’s jobs back where we existed before this pandemic.”

–By Stephanie Hoff