Wisconsin unemployment drops to 5.9 percent

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin's unemployment is down to 5.9 percent, its lowest level since November 2008.

The state Department of Workforce Development reported Thursday that the unemployment rate was 5.9 percent in March, down from 6.1 percent in February. During that time the state added 6,400 private sector jobs.

The national unemployment rate last month was 6.7 percent.

Gov. Scott Walker has cautioned against putting too much weight on the monthly data, which is subject to significant revisions and based on a survey of just 3.5 percent of Wisconsin employers.

Instead, Walker has said quarterly data based on a census of 96 percent of businesses should be used to gauge employment in the state.
MADISON, Wis. (DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT NEWS RELEASE) – The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unemployment and employment estimates showing Wisconsin's preliminary unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent in March 2014 from 6.1 percent in February (seasonally adjusted). The rate is Wisconsin's lowest monthly rate since November 2008, down from a high point of 9.2 percent in 2010, and below the national unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, which was unchanged from February.

DWD today also released BLS' preliminary March 2014 employment estimates showing Wisconsin gained 6,400 private-sector jobs (seasonally adjusted), including 2,300 jobs in manufacturing. Total nonfarm employment increased by 6,900 from February to March and by 38,400 from March 2013.

DWD Secretary Reggie Newson issued the following statement: "For the first time in over a half-decade, Wisconsin's unemployment rate has dropped below 6 percent, and that's because our state's labor force and employment have increased and unemployment has decreased. Even as these numbers are aligned with many other economic indicators showing state is moving in the right direction, there is much more work to be done to develop our state's workforce and create more good-paying jobs for Wisconsin's working families."

The BLS uses three data sets to measure employment and unemployment:

• Current Employment Statistics (CES): compiled from a monthly survey sent to about 5,500 employers (3.5% of Wisconsin employers). CES data has been shown to be subject to substantial revision.
• Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS): compiled from a monthly survey of 1,450 households. Measures the labor force, employment, unemployment, and the unemployment rate.
• Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW): compiled on a quarterly basis from Unemployment Insurance records from some 96% of Wisconsin business establishments. Considered by most economists to be the most accurate measure of jobs, the QCEW includes data from almost all employers in Wisconsin.

Other indicators that help illustrate the state of Wisconsin's economy include:

• QCEW: Wisconsin ranked 8th highest in the country in average weekly wage growth (total covered jobs) for the third quarter of 2013 when compared to the third quarter of 2012, and 6th highest over this time for private sector average weekly wage growth.
• QCEW data show Wisconsin added over 63,000 private-sector jobs in 2011-12. The back-to-back, 2011 and 2012 calendar year QCEW private sector job creation totals are the best two-year gains in over a decade.
• Department of Financial Institutions new business formation: up 7.0 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period a year ago.
• Initial weekly Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims for the first 14 weeks of 2014 dropped to the lowest point since 2000, and the annual average weekly UI claims are at a 13-year low.
• Wisconsin’s exports exceeded $23 billion in 2013.

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