This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Noah Williams, UW-Madison economics professor and director of the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy.
Williams expects that Wisconsin will get back to pre-pandemic unemployment rates towards the end of 2021. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was at 6.2 percent in August compared to April’s 13.6 percent. In March, the last month before the pandemic, the rate was at 3.1 percent.
“We have seen a relatively rapid bounceback in the state — more rapid than nationwide,” he said. “But the rate of improvement has definitely slowed over the summer. A lot of the remaining unemployment has to do with the businesses that aren’t able to operate at full capacity because of the social distancing requirements.”
Hospitality and tourism, largely hotels and restaurants, have been hit the hardest, Williams said. But Wisconsin’s diversity in employment has allowed the Badger State to bounce back more quickly compared to other states.
“Manufacturing has actually been a relatively strong area,” he said. “Retail has been a little bit of a mixed bag. Within the restaurant sector, quick dining and fast food has actually seen quite a bit of growth.”
Williams said the economy won’t fully recover until the virus has a vaccine. With respiratory viruses peaking in the colder months and spikes in cases on college campuses, it could hinder the state’s current economic recovery.
“The slowing which we saw later in the summer was due at least in part to the resurgence of the virus nationwide,” he said. Targeted restrictions and increased consumer fear could prevent a full recovery moving forward.
Listen to the podcast below, sponsored by UW-Madison: