MMAC: May economic trends report for metro Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Indicators of metro Milwaukee business activity posted mixed results in May.  While 14 of 22 available monthly indicators tracked by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) posted positive year-over-year results in May, many of these indicators recorded a weaker pace of growth than in previous months.  

“On the positive side, growth across the majority of indicators continues in the metro area. But there are signs of future weakness,” said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s economic research vice president. “Slower overall job gains, a slower pace of manufacturing activity and the erosion of worker earnings due to inflation mark clouds on the horizon. Whether broad-based continuing  growth is sustainable in the future is an open question.”  

Highlights of the data include:  

∙ Nonfarm employment in the Metro area averaged 841,300 in May, up 1.1% from one year ago. May’s increase is down from April’s 1.7% gain, and the average increase of  1.5% over 2022’s first five months.  

∙ Seven of 10 major industry sectors registered year-over-year job gains in May, led by the leisure & hospitality (up 10%) and construction, mining & natural resources (up 4.1%)  sectors. Among sectors with declines, the financial activities sector saw the largest percentage decline — down 5.2% vs. one year ago and this sector’s eighth year-over-year decrease in the last nine months.  

∙ Manufacturing jobs rose 1.5% in May, down from the 2.4% growth posted in April (vs.  April 2021) and the smallest increase registered since September 2021. The length of a  manufacturing production worker’s average workweek fell 9.4% vs. one year ago, this indicator’s ninth consecutive month of year-over-year decline. 

∙ Earnings indicators for manufacturing production workers were mixed. Average hourly earnings for such workers rose 12% to $27.23, a healthy increase, while average weekly earnings rose 1.5% to $1,002, an increase well below national consumer price inflation  (up 8.6%) over the same time period. 

∙ The number of unemployed in the metro area continued its steady pace downward, falling  29.9% in May (vs. May 2021) to 28,100. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, down 1.5 percentage points from one year ago.  ∙ Among other indicators, new-car registrations in the metro Milwaukee fell 46.2% in May  (year-over-year). Metro area existing home sales numbered 1,666, down 1.1% from one year ago following April’s 3.9% decline.