MMAC: February economic trends report for metro Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Metro area business activity indicators remain sluggish as only four local
indictors pointed upward in February vs. year-ago levels, according to a monthly report by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC.) February’s total is down from the five of 22 available indicators which registered year-over-year gains in January.

“While job declines year-over-year have softened in recent months, the metro area jobs recovery rate for this downturn remains at a bit over 50%,” said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s economic research director. “Rising earnings indicators locally as well as improvement in consumer sentiment nationally suggest that the recovery may accelerate in the near-term future.”

Highlights of the data include:

• Nonfarm jobs in February registered a 7.1% decline from year-ago levels, down
marginally from the 7.3% fall posted in January. Metro area jobs averaged 804,300 in
February, ranking nearly 62,000 under year-ago levels.

• Among major industry sectors, leisure & hospitality (down 25.6%) posted the largest
percentage job decline compared to one year ago. Conversely the professional & business
services sector posted the smallest decrease, down 2.6%. In aggregate all 10 major
industry sectors posted year-over-year job declines in February.

• February’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.2% ranks 1.9 percentage points higher than the 3.3% rate recorded one year ago. Wisconsin’s February rate ranked lower at 4.8% while the U.S. rate at 6.6% ranked higher.

• The number of unemployed in the metro area rose 53.9% vs. year-ago levels to 41,400.

• For the fourth consecutive month job declines in manufacturing trended downward.
Manufacturing’s 3.6% decline in February is down from January’s 4% decrease.

• Manufacturing earnings and production indicators for February were mixed. The length
of the average workweek for production workers fell 0.7% vs. one year ago (to 40.8
hours) following back-to-back months of growth. On the other hand, worker earnings
indicators rose. Average weekly earnings for such workers increased 4.4% (to $971)
while average hourly earnings increased 5.2% (to $23.79).

• Both new car registrations and air passenger totals remain in long term decline. Metro
area new-car registrations for February fell for the twenty-first consecutive month – down 7.1% from one year ago and air passengers using Mitchell International Airport
decreased for the twelfth consecutive month – down 63.8% from one year ago.

• Both local housing and real estate indicators posted year-over-year gains in February.
Metro area existing homes sold rose marginally, up 0.1% vs. one year ago while
mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County increased 81.4%, this indicator’s largest
percentage increase since September 2003.