TUE AM News: COWS report finds 41 percent of Milwaukee workers paid less than $15 per hour; February home sales in Milwaukee down 22.6 percent over the year

— Forty-one percent of all Milwaukee workers are paid less than $15 per hour, according to a new report from a UW-Madison think tank. 

In its “Facts from the Frontline” report, COWS highlights the declining share of manufacturing employees making up the region’s workforce, as well as falling union membership and rising income inequality along racial lines. 

The liberal-leaning research center interviewed and profiled a number of workers in the area’s service industry and found many are demanding higher wages and more favorable schedules. COWS argues that “such change is possible only when workers have [a] voice in their jobs and the security allowed by a union contract.” 

Between 1979 and 2019, the gap between real median household income for Black and white Milwaukee residents rose from 40 percent to 60 percent, the report shows. Over the same period, the percentage of the region’s workforce made up by manufacturing jobs plummeted from 40 percent to 12 percent. 

And union membership among Milwaukee workers dropped from 24 percent to 12 percent, according to the report. 

Using figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, report authors found 41 percent of the city’s 243,221 workers make less than $15 per hour. Those workers are much less likely to receive employer benefits such as health insurance. And they work 34 hours per week on average, compared to the standard 40 hours per week average for the other 59 percent of workers. 

Report authors note the median age for workers in the lower income segment is 30 years, arguing that “goes against the popular narrative that teenagers or young adults are the primary holders” of such positions, many of which are in food service and retail. Plus, about one-third of those lower-paid workers are white, while more than half are Black or Hispanic. 

The report notes three broad industry categories make up more than 60 percent of the jobs paying less than $15 per hour: educational services, health care and social assistance; arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services; and retail trade. 

“For the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the essential nature of Milwaukee’s frontline service jobs,” report authors wrote. “Service work, especially the jobs highlighted in this report, could be a force to lift working people into the middle class and close Milwaukee’s racial economic gap.” 

The report is part of the “EARN in the Midwest” project, which involves COWS, the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization and Kids Forward. 

See the full report: https://cows.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/1368/2023/02/facts-from-the-frontline.pdf 

Listen to a WisBusiness.com podcast with Laura Dresser, one of the report’s authors and the associate director of COWS: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/wisbusiness-the-podcast-with-laura-dresser-of-cows/ 

— February home sales in the Milwaukee area were down 22.6 percent over the year, according to the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors. 

In the group’s latest report, GMAR figures show 877 homes were sold in the four-county metropolitan Milwaukee area last month. That’s down from the 1,133 homes sold in February 2022. 

For the entire southeastern Wisconsin region — which includes Racine, Kenosha and Walworth along with metro Milwaukee — total sales for the month were down 26 percent from 1,586 to 1,174. 

This trend is expected to continue for the next several months due to “unusually intense competition” in the first half of 2022 leading to record sales figures. 

But while sales were down, home prices continued to rise with a 1.9 percent increase in average prices in February. Still, GMAR notes that’s much lower than the increases in January and December — 9.5 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively. 

As in previous reports, the group notes the market needs more single-family and condo units to moderate rising prices and meet the area’s residential demand. 

See the full story here: https://www.gmar.com/resources/research-statistics/2023-housing-statistics 

— The head of the Wisconsin Bankers Association says state residents “can rest assured” that Wisconsin’s banking system remains stable following two high-profile bank collapses in California and New York. 

In a statement yesterday, WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels said banks in the state “do not operate in the manner that caused the failure” of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. 

Both banks were closed down in recent days by regulators, marking the second and third largest bank failures in U.S. history after Washington Mutual’s shutdown in 2008. 

“The customer base of Wisconsin banks is much more diversified and the overall balance sheet management of Wisconsin banks is significantly different,” Oswald Poels said. “Regulators acted swiftly and decisively, which protected customers of the failed banks and prevented further pain across the banking system.”  

See the full statement: https://www.wisbank.com/wisconsin-bankers-association-statement-on-the-failure-of-silicon-valley-bank/ 

See more in the banking headlines section below. 

— Greg Marcus, president and CEO of Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corporation, says revenue projections appear “very positive” for the rest of 2023 as the movie and hotel industries continue to recover from the pandemic.

Marcus Theaters operates screens in 17 states and is the nation’s fourth-largest movie theater chain.

“Last year, our revenues were down 35 percent from pre-pandemic,” Marcus said on WISN’s “UpFront,” which is produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com. “The number of movies released were down 35 percent. What does that tell me? It tells me people want to go if we give them the product.”

The company’s 2022 financial report released earlier this month showed revenue for Marcus Theatres was up 50.3 percent, and attendance increased 47.2 percent from 2021.

Matching national trends, Marcus said the company has raised ticket prices from pre-pandemic levels.

“We’re being cognizant,” Marcus said. “We’re trying not to increase them too much because we want to attract the audiences back, but like everybody else, we’re dealing with inflation. We are in a service business. We are trying to take care of people, and the cost of labor has gone up.”

Marcus said revenue projections also continue to increase for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, which has 16 properties in eight states.

“We are better than pre-pandemic years,” Marcus said. “We had a record year last year. That business is back, and that’s what gives me hope for the theater business, too.”

See more from the show: https://www.wisn.com/upfront 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report …</b></i> 

— A new care center for patients recovering from a variety of injuries and conditions has opened in Eau Claire, replacing a smaller facility that first opened in 1978. 

And state health officials say they’re investigating a texting scam targeting members of the state’s FoodShare program.

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.</i> 

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