The unemployment rate fell in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties from May to June, according to new data released Wednesday that was compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But in more than 60 percent of counties, the unemployment rate remains at or above 8 percent, putting a majority of counties on par with unemployment levels not seen in the state since the Great Recession.
Counties with the highest June unemployment rate include Menominee County with 20 percent, Forest County with 18.5 percent, and Iron County at 14.2 percent.
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The counties with the lowest rates were Lafayette with 5.7 percent, Clark at 6.1 percent, and Taylor with 6.2 percent.
Dennis Winters, chief economist at the state Department of Workforce Development, which released the federal data, said the numbers make sense given the historic impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on all levels of the economy. But Winters added that he’s encouraged to see unemployment trending in the right direction.
“These numbers are certainly higher than we like, but they’re down substantially from where they were,” Winters said. “The trend seems to be going that way, so we’re taking that as good news.”
Wisconsin’s statewide unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in June, an improvement of more than 3.5 percentage points from May’s unemployment rate of 12.1 percent, but a number still in line with Great Recession levels.
Tessa Conroy, an assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Agricultural and Applied Economics Department who specializes in regional economic development, said it’s encouraging to see unemployment improving across the state. However, she said the numbers show that the economy has not gotten back to normal for a lot of people in Wisconsin.
“Even though things are better, we’re still quite a ways from where we were before the pandemic hit,” Conroy said. “So if we were to compare to say a year ago, we have a ways to go in terms of improving things again.”
Winters noted that the variation in unemployment levels across the state can be partly attributed to the different ways the pandemic has impacted different parts of the economy.
“Those that are affected more by tourism and accommodations and things like that have been impacted more than those that have higher concentrations in say, finance or manufacturing,” Winters said.
Among the state’s metropolitan areas, Wausau had the lowest unemployment rate in June at 6.9 percent. The Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metropolitan area had the highest unemployment rate at 10 percent.
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