by Erik Gunn, Wisconsin Examiner
October 22, 2023

The number of jobs in Wisconsin reached a new record in September for the third month in a row, the state labor department reported Thursday.

Dennis Winters, Department of Workforce Development chief economist (DWD photo)

The unemployment rate, while still at a historic low and below the U.S. as a whole, edged up slightly. That may be driven as much by an increase in the number of people looking for jobs as the economy continues to grow, said Dennis Winters, chief economist at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), in a media briefing.

Meanwhile, new and continuing claims for unemployment insurance remain at near-record lows as well, the department reported.

The unemployment rate in September edged up to 3.1% from August’s 2.9%. The national rate was 3.7%. Among Wisconsinites 16 or older, 65.8% were working or looking for work in September. Nationally the labor force participation rate was 62.8%.

Both numbers are drawn from a household survey that asks whether people are working or seeking work. The unemployment rate counts people who say they are seeking jobs against the total group of active labor force participants.

In a separate survey, employers reported 3,017,800 jobs in Wisconsin, a gain of about 8,000 over August, and about 35,000 over September 2022. The largest year-to-year gains were in health care and in the sector that includes hotels, restaurants and other food service.

“We’ve seen a gain in jobs as the economy continues to expand,” Winters said. “The unemployment rate going up is because the labor force is increasing,” with more people looking for work in response to the availability of jobs. “This month [job-seekers] came in at a faster rate than employment.”

Winters is optimistic about the economy’s current trajectory. “We’re kind of running on all cylinders right now, and will continue to do so as far as we can see,” he said.

A long-running demographic projection continues to forecast challenges for employers seeking to fill job openings, however. “The workforce is essentially flat for the foreseeable future,” Winters said.

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