FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Joel Zielke, Steamfitters Local 601; Unemployment rate ticks up in May while total employment hits record high

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Joel Zielke, business manager for Steamfitters Local 601 in Madison. 

He discusses the role of apprenticeships in the trades, highlighting a recent competition for apprentices held at Steamfitters Local 601 Training Center in Madison. It included plumbers, sprinkler fitters, HVAC service technicians and pipefitters from 11 states, and Zielke said it was “a great opportunity” to showcase the Madison facility. 

“It incorporated really a lot of the facets of the different pipe trades and the guys get graded on that — on the theory part and on that practical part — and the winners move onto Ann Arbor to the national contest,” he said. 

Zielke also touts the trades as an alternative path to attending a college or university. 

“Some people would rather work with their hands, or be in a career that’s outdoors or a little more challenging physically,” he said. 

He noted the cost of apprenticeship is typically much lower than a college degree, as journeyman graduates pay back into the system to cover training costs for incoming apprentices. 

“It’s a nice way to get people trained for a minimum cost, and then at some point, that journeyman is there working, they return the favor,” he said. “They pay into the training school and pay for the next group of apprentices coming through.” 

Listen to the podcast here: 

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— Wisconsin’s jobless rate ticked up, but the number of people employed in May hit a record total of 3,059,300, new government stats show.

In addition, the state’s labor force participation rate in May was 66.5 percent, which is 4.2 percentage points higher than the U.S. rate of 62.3 percent but well below the historic highs seen in the late 1990s. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate hit 74.5 percent in 1997, and has largely been declining since that time.

The state’s labor force participation rate had dipped to 65.8 percent in April 2020 during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has recovered slightly since then.

Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 2.9 percent in May, the Department of Workforce Development said.

The uptick follows two months of record-low unemployment at 2.8 percent, and is due to the state’s labor force growing more than employment, DWD Chief Economist Dennis Winters said today in a media briefing.

He noted the labor force grew by 1,900 in May, while employment rose by 1,300.

“You see the narrowing gap between the two, right, that’s what gives you the yield on the lower unemployment rate,” Winters said. “We expect both of those trends to continue; the labor force will be fairly flat, although hopefully gaining as we go forward. Employment is expected to continue to gain.”

The state has recovered about 98 percent of jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.

“That puts us about 62,500 jobs short of the pre-COVID peak,” he said.

See the DWD release:

— DWD will partner with a migrant services organization on an unemployment insurance navigator program using a $3 million federal grant. 

The agency announced yesterday it will be working with United Migrant Opportunity Services to improve “equitable access” to the state’s UI system through the new navigator program. It will seek to help migrant and seasonal farm workers, individuals with limited English, as well as residents of urban and rural areas who have been “historically underserved.” The release points to Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, the Fox Valley area and Green Bay as examples. 

It also spotlights state residents “affected by persistent poverty and inequality,” low-income workers, and racial and ethnic minorities. 

 “Through this grant, DWD will partner with a proven winner in UMOS and increase equitable access to much-needed UI benefits for individuals with limited English proficiency, as well as those facing challenges with computer and internet access, disabilities, and other barriers to obtaining UI benefits,” DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said in the release. 

See more details: 

— The state’s seven-day average for COVID-19 cases continues to trend downward, reaching 1,453 cases per day at latest count. 

The state Department of Health Services dashboard shows the average reached a minor peak of 2,200 cases per day about one month ago, and has largely been declining since then.  

Other measures of COVID-19 in the state paint a similar picture. The percent positivity rate for tests was at 11.6 percent yesterday, down slightly from the 14.1 percent in mid-May. But like the case numbers, this metric remains far below the level of activity seen in January, when the initial surge caused by the omicron variant reached its peak. 

Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations have remained stable in recent weeks, with no significant change seen over the first two weeks of June. 

According to the DHS site, 88.1 percent of hospital beds and 85.3 percent of intensive care unit beds were in use as of June 14, with little change seen in either of those figures for over a year. 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows 358 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in the state, including 58 ICU patients. Both numbers decreased slightly over the past week. 

See the latest case numbers: 

See WHA’s dashboard here: 

— The number of abortions in Wisconsin increased 9 percent between 2017 and 2020, according to figures released by the Guttmacher Institute. 

That rise follows the national trend, the group’s report shows, as the number of abortions in the United States increased 8 percent over the same period, from 862,320 in 2017 to 930,160 in 2020. 

In Wisconsin, that number rose from 6,360 to 6,960, the data shows. 

At the same time, the abortion rate in Wisconsin also increased from 2017-2020. It rose from 5.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 to 6.4 per 1,000 women in that age range. 

The national increase starting in 2017 came after decades of declining abortion numbers that began in the early 1990s, according to the data. Report authors argue these findings are “underscoring that the need for abortion care in the United States is growing just as the US Supreme Court appears likely to overturn or gut Roe v. Wade.” 

The Guttmacher Institute is a abortion-rights research group launched in 1968 that says it’s “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights” around the world. 

See the full report: 

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# Marvel selects Green Bay startup’s digital platform for its role-playing game

# ‘Employees have a stronger voice’: How local companies are looking beyond wages to attract workers in a tight labor market

# Milwaukee Democrats try again on climate and clean energy bills



– FFA Officer team announced, Star Award winners honored


– Associated Bank to open ‘micro branch’ in downtown Milwaukee


– Construction input prices up 21% from a year ago


– One City Schools gives its educators a four-day work week


– ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is saving the cinema, says Marcus Theatres’ Rolando Rodriquez


– Tornado rips through central Wisconsin, causing damage, power outages


– Medical College’s Ehrenfeld chosen as AMA president-elect

– Children’s Wisconsin celebrates opening of clinic on Milwaukee’s near south side


– Did a Chinese manufacturer rip off a Germantown company’s high-tech cup holder, costing millions in lost sales? A jury will decide.


– Wacker Neuson will manufacture John Deere excavators at Menomonee Falls facility


– Some clinics halting abortions while bracing for Roe’s fall


– Investors are buying fewer homes than pandemic peak, but their share continues to grow amid changing housing market


– Night Market returns for 2022, cut short by inclement weather


– Business with IT departments invited to join Racine County IT Collaborative


– Over 20 years in the making, Green Bay welcomes its first cruise ship, the Ocean Navigator


– As temperatures rise, pavement buckles on Madison area roads


– Tornado, storms cause structural damage, power outages


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

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