FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Laura Dresser of COWS; August unemployment rate reaches 3.1 percent

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Laura Dresser, associate director of UW-Madison’s COWS policy research center. 

She discusses findings from the latest State of Working Wisconsin report, which includes data on employment, wages and labor organizing in the state. 

“Workers see that this is a moment where they have some power, they have power to leave their jobs and find better jobs and we see a lot of evidence that workers are doing that,” she said, noting wage increases detailed in the report illustrate this trend. 

Dresser shares her perspective on demographic trends affecting the workforce, as more workers age out than the number joining the labor market. This issue is particularly significant in rural parts of Wisconsin, the report notes. 

“I think everybody sees that the labor markets are tight, and this is something that demographers have been watching in Wisconsin for a long time,” she said. “But it’s really evident right now because of the strength of the overall economy.” 

While the working age population is growing in certain areas, such as Madison, the number of “prime age” workers in much of northern Wisconsin continues to shrink. 

“Over the last 10 years, we have 150,000 workers fewer in prime ages, and all that loss … is in those counties away from the deeply urban counties,” she said. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

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See the report: 

— Wisconsin’s unemployment rate in August crept up to 3.1 percent, according to the latest federal figures released by the state Department of Workforce Development. 

That’s after the state’s unemployment rate rose slightly from 2.9 percent in June to 3 percent in July. It remains below the U.S. unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. 

In a briefing yesterday, DWD Chief Economist Dennis Winters said the August figures show a continuation of trends seen this year, with job gains in seven of the first eight months of 2022. He noted the state added 5,500 total nonfarm jobs last month, and 49,600 nonfarm jobs over the year. Private sector jobs fell by 2,800 over the month, but have increased by 40,500 over the year. 

Wisconsin has now recovered over 98 percent of the pre-pandemic jobs total after losing more than 400,000 jobs due to COVID-19, Winters said. 

Meanwhile, the state’s construction industry has added 6,700 jobs over the year, the DWD report shows. Winters noted total employment in this sector reached a new record high in August with 132,900 jobs. 

“Wisconsin jobs continue to increase, employment is near historic highs, unemployment and unemployment rates are near historic lows, and businesses continue to hire,” he said. 

Still, the state’s labor force participation rate fell slightly from 66.2 percent in July to 65.9 percent in August. It’s higher than the national rate of 62.4 percent, the report shows. 

See the DWD release: 

— The state has been awarded $80 million in federal funds through the 2021 infrastructure law to help cover the costs of replacing the I-39/90/94 bridges over the Wisconsin River in Columbia County.

The project is one of 26 nationwide to receive money through the $1.5 billion in grants announced yesterday.

Along with the interstate bridges, the work includes two overcrossing bridges for county roads.

The overall project was projected to cost $156.1 million, according to the state Department of Transportation’s latest update on major highway projects. The bulk of the work was slated to be done in 2024.

See the U.S. DOT release:

— The Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin has announced $544,541 in new funding for eight UW System research and training programs. 

Funding efforts include studies of blue-green algae blooms, the economic impact of fishing in the state, and fish movement trends and survival, as well as new freshwater studies coursework and undergraduate applied research. 

“Our latest funded projects will create new collaborations and strengthen existing partnerships among the UW institutions and external partners that will further enhance the student experience and prepare undergraduates for careers in Wisconsin’s workforce,” Marissa Jablonski, the collaborative’s executive director, said in the release. 

See the list of funded programs: 

See the release: 

— The state Department of Health Services is getting $868,730 in federal grant funding for suicide prevention efforts, the agency announced. 

The CDC funding is part of a five-year grant award, and DHS says a similar amount is expected for each of the next four years. 

DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake says the funding “could not come at a more critical time” as suicide rates in Wisconsin have increased 32 percent over the past two decades. She notes suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the state, with about 900 residents committing suicide in 2020. 

“We cannot continue to lose our family, friends, or members of our communities to suicide,” she said in a release. “This landmark funding from the CDC will help save lives and save many from the unique and difficult pain of losing someone to suicide.”

According to DHS, the grant funding will be used to form partnerships with mental health and suicide prevention groups as well as engaging with people who have “lived experience of suicide loss, attempts, and/or ideation.” 

Wisconsin was among six states selected for this funding, including Florida, Georgia, New York, North Dakota and Oregon.

See more details in the release: 

— The percentage of uninsured Wisconsin residents fell slightly over the pandemic, from 5.7 percent in 2019 to 5.4 percent in 2021, federal data show. 

The U.S. Census Bureau yesterday released the latest health insurance coverage figures for last year. The agency notes estimates for 2020 were not released due to data collection disruptions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the national level, the uninsured rate fell from 9.2 percent to 8.6 percent over the same period. This rate last year varied widely among U.S. states, from 2.5 percent in Massachusetts to 18 percent in Texas, the Census Bureau report shows. 

See the data: 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has co-introduced legislation in an effort to help local and tribal communities fight the opioid epidemic.

The State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act aims to streamline the State Opioid Response grant program by increasing the minimum grant award to $12 million and authorizing $2.7 billion for fiscal years 2023 through 2027, among other things.

The bill allocates 5 percent of funding for tribal communities. 

“As the opioid and substance use disorder crisis continues to plague American families, I am working to ensure local and Tribal communities have the resources and flexibility they need to support prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts,” the Madison Dem said. “Washington needs to step up and better address the opioid and use disorder crisis, and this legislation helps strengthen the partnership with state and local communities and helps them effectively respond to this epidemic.”

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# As Wisconsin’s only oil refinery comes back online, Superior residents will see a decrease in water rates

# Evers wants to legalize marijuana; Michels wants it to stay banned

# Eight Milwaukee businesses win prize money at Near West Side Partners pitch competition



– Husnick, Schroeder elected to Potatoes USA Board

– Vincent: Sky is the limit for Wisconsin’s dairy export potential


– Former Associated Bank executive now leads community banking for Old National Bank


– Federal money coming to replace bridges in Columbia County

– Racine-based road-building contractor breaks ground on headquarters expansion


– Nonresidential construction prices fall slightly, still up nearly 17%


– UW-L’s Dawn Hays recognized for decades helping kids, parents, students


– Senators to FEMA: Give the Midwest a chance at being awarded disaster mitigation money


– 3D printing firm chose Milwaukee over Detroit for major U.S. hub with 150 jobs


– Owner of Milwaukee auto detail shop faces charges of misusing PPP loans

– Tomah man accused of faking veteran status to gain federal contracts


– Former Potawatomi Hotel & Casino CFO hired by The Bartolotta Restaurants


– Corporate donations rarely line up with businesses’ calls for a healthy democracy, report says


– Shorter building pitched for Brookfield Wheel & Sprocket site

– $7.5 million Wells Fargo housing grant would fund home acquisition, down payments, and counseling

– The Buzz: Lion’s Tail Brewing expands brewing operations in Neenah


– Brady Street BID to study closing street to vehicles


– Wisconsin’s Kohl Center volleyball match could draw record attendance

– New London woman had double-lung transplant last year. Now, she’ll be in Fox Cities Marathon 5K.


– Milwaukee Art Museum celebrates 20th anniversary of Quadracci Pavilion


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