WED AM News: COWS report highlights pandemic impact on leisure, hospitality jobs; Report also shows decline in union membership

— A report from a UW-Madison think tank shows employment in the state’s leisure and hospitality industry remains 18.7 percent lower than before the pandemic. 

The annual State of Working Wisconsin report from COWS details the change in job numbers across various industries between February 2020 and June 2021. COWS stands for Center on Wisconsin Strategy.

Wisconsin’s economy overall has 114,000 fewer jobs than in February 2020, the report shows. The greatest job losses were seen in leisure and hospitality, which includes hotels, bars and restaurants. The industry had 49,600 fewer jobs in July than before the pandemic hit. 

The report notes that this sector had lost more than half of its workforce by April 2020 at the height of the pandemic. While it has been recovering as these businesses reopened, the report points to “volatility in the sector” limiting that rebound. 

“It’s adding jobs unevenly, but more-or-less on a pretty consistent upswing,” said Laura Dresser, associate director of COWS. “I think people can see this in their communities … Many restaurants are working shorter hours, or doing only takeout or outside seating, so that kind of restructured some of that work.” 

Meanwhile, other sectors have lost very few jobs over the course of the pandemic. State employment in manufacturing, information, professional and business services, and trade, transportation and utilities all dropped by 1 percent or less between February 2020 and June of this year. 

Some differences were seen between Wisconsin’s pandemic job losses and U.S. industry job losses on a percentage basis. While the country lost 6.1 percent of its information jobs, Wisconsin lost just 0.6 percent. In contrast, the state lost 3.1 percent of its financial activities jobs over the same period while U.S. employment in the sector dropped 0.8 percent. 

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in July, which is below the national rate of 5.4 percent but still 0.4 percent above the rate from February 2020. 

See the COWS jobs report here: 

— The COWS report also highlights the decline in private and public sector union membership seen in Wisconsin. 

The report shows that 8.8 percent of the state’s workforce were union members in 2020.

In line with the national trend, the percentage of Wisconsin workers in unions has declined steadily since the mid-1960s, though it remained above the national level before dropping below in 2014. 

The report shows 22.1 percent of the state’s public sector workers and 6.5 percent of private sector employees were union members in 2020. 

Report authors say the “deeper decline” in union membership in the state over the past decade was directly caused by two pieces of state policy: Act 10, which restructured public sector unionization in Wisconsin after passing in 2011; and “right-to-work” legislation enacted in 2015 that impacted private sector unions. 

“It probably does not surprise that Act 10 had a real impact on public sector unions,” Dresser said. “It wasn’t instant, but it’s a pretty dramatic slide in public sector unionization rates that go from over 40 percent down to 20 percent across a five-year period.” 

See the COWS report on unions: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced $5.7 million in funding for Milwaukee’s Mental Health Emergency Center, slated to open next year. 

Of that number, $4.5 million is coming from Wisconsin’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funding, a release shows. The other $1.2 million is from a mental health block grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The center is being launched by Milwaukee County and local health systems including Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert Health. Along with providing inpatient, outpatient and peer support services, the facility will also support training for psychiatric medical residents. 

“This facility will play a critical role in strengthening our mental healthcare infrastructure by expanding access to treatment and providing a wide range of options for people experiencing mental health crises to get the care they need,” Evers said in a statement. 

See the release: 

— Evers also declared Aug. 31 Overdose Awareness Day in Wisconsin, drawing attention to the ongoing opioid epidemic as well as overdoses from other types of drugs. 

Figures from the Department of Health Services show 6,845 drug overdose deaths occured in the state between 2014 and 2020, including 5,338 opioid overdoses. Multi-drug overdoses made up 3,101 of the total number, and other overdoses were attributed to cocaine and methamphetamines. 

Monthly opioid overdose deaths have been increasing in the state since 2016, though the number increased significantly in mid-2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

See the announcement here: 

See the DHS numbers on opioid overdoses: 

— A new UW Health sickle cell disease clinic in Madison will bring together medical experts from various disciplines. 

“Historically, patients who have sickle cell disease report negative experiences with their care, often from a lack of cohesion among their care providers, which can really impact the patient’s quality of life,” said Dr. Moniba Nazeef, an assistant professor at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health who’s overseeing the new clinic. 

Sickle cell disease is most frequently seen in people of African descent or those who identify as Black. It causes red blood cells to be shaped like a crescent moon, rather than the typical circular shape. This difference can have an effect on blood flow and cause pain as well as joint and organ issues. 

The clinic is in its early stages, but Nazeef aims to foster collaboration between pain treatment experts, social workers, psychologists, hematologists, nurses, doctors and others.

“We want this new clinic to create a multidisciplinary health care team that is confident and well-versed in the unique needs of patients with sickle cell disease, ensuring patients get the right care when they need it,” Nazeef said. 

See more on the new clinic: 

— Eau Claire is getting a $250,000 state grant from WEDC for redevelopment of a city parking lot into a mixed-use building with apartments and commercial space. 

Under the planned development, the building will have 76 apartment units and over 8,000 square feet of space for commercial tenants on the first floor. 

The project is being undertaken by Merge Urban Development Group and Slingshot Architecture. It has a projected capital investment of over $19 million and is expected to be completed by March 2023, a release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation shows. 

WEDC says the retail components of the proposed project would create about 20 jobs, and provide space for small businesses to set up shop. The grant funding is coming from the agency’s Community Development Investment Grant Program. 

See the release: 


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