Weekend Roundup: Wisconsin unemployment hits record low of 2.8 percent

Packers v. 49ers, Country Jam USA, meteor sightings and more

A USPS office with a now hiring sign
In this photo taken Thursday, June 4, 2020, a customer walks out of a U.S. Post Office branch and under a banner advertising a job opening, in Seattle. Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate hit a record low of 2.8 percent in December, after tying the previous low of 3 percent in November, the state Department of Workforce Development reported Thursday.

The state rate is below the national unemployment rate of 3.9 percent for December. Wisconsin gained 5,300 private sector jobs in December. The number of people counted as unemployed in Wisconsin, 86,200, also hit a record low, the department reported.

Hitting a new low comes amid a worker shortage both in the state and nationwide. Republicans who control the state Legislature unveiled a package of bills this week that would cut unemployment and other benefits as part of a strategy to get more people into the workforce.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Gov. Tony Evers has also devoted federal pandemic relief money toward the worker shortage problem, including $130 million for job training programs and local efforts to develop long-term solutions to the labor shortage and $60 million for workforce development grants.

Evers, who is up for reelection this year, said the news was worth celebrating and “evidence of the resilience and innovation of Wisconsinites across our state.”

Wisconsin DHS: COVID-19 Weekly Recap

The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin is 17,586 as of Friday. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has confirmed 10,755 total deaths from the disease. Wisconsin saw a record seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases Thursday.

Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated 82 percent of people age 65 and older, 54.1 percent of children age 12 to 17, and 18.6 percent of children 5 to 11 years old.

Packers face 49ers in playoff opener

The Green Bay Packers play the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field.

The 7:15 p.m. Saturday game will be aired by Fox.

The 49ers, are a sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. The Packers are the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and beat the 49ers 30-28 in Week 3 at San Francisco (please brush the dirt off your shoulders).

In this article, Packers News reporter Ryan Wood has gone into detail on the following three things he says we all need to know about ahead of Saturday’s game:

  1. The recent history between the two games, including the 2019 NFC championship game the Packers lost to the 49ers (too bad we can’t simply forget about you).
  2. How the 49ers have, and have not, changed since that 2019 game.
  3. The student and the teacher meet again: Matt LaFleur v. Kyle Shanahan.

Packers fans across the country submitted questions and hot takes about the game against the 49ers to Packers.com, and senior writer Mike Spofford responded to some of them. Here are a few:

Douglas from Bemidji, Minnesota: Just one game at a time, but I’d love to beat the 49ers and then the Bucs on the way to the Super Bowl and redeem the last two seasons.

MS: You and everyone else out there.

Mike from Baraboo: Which returning injured Packers player do you feel will have the biggest impact in the playoff run?

MS: I’ll stick with what I said a few weeks ago – David Bakhtiari. Five sacks from the edge rushers in last year’s NFC title game still answers the question for me.

Dave from Comer, Georgia: How are the 49ers different from when we played them earlier in the year?

MS: I think they’ve gotten even more creative and versatile with how they use Deebo Samuel. He’s a handful.

Milwaukee Common Council passes measure saying all elected, appointed officials are subject to anti-harassment policy

The Milwaukee Common Council approved a measure Tuesday that said all of the city’s elected and appointed officials are subject to the same anti-harassment policy as employees, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The council’s action comes after an investigation and a 2020 report into harassment allegations against city attorney Tearman Spencer, which determined he wasn’t subject to the city’s policy because he was elected.

The council’s measure orders the city Department of Employee Relations to update the city’s anti-harassment and workplace violence policy to include both elected officials and appointees.

According to the Journal Sentinel, the Employee Relations Department can hold elected officials accountable for violations up to a written warning. In other instances, the department “can defer to a city ordinance that under certain circumstances empowers a majority of the council to ‘dismiss from office’ elected officials and appointees, except justices of the peace.”

Country Jam USA festival to move to town of Wheaton

Country Jam USA, the multi-day country music festival that has become an annual event in Western Wisconsin, plans to move this year to a new location in the town of Wheaton, according to the Eau Claire Leader Telegram.

The festival’s organizers closed Tuesday on the purchase of about 160 acres located on the west side of Highway T and along 20th Avenue, the Leader Telegram reported.

Jam organizer Kathy Wright said they plan to build permanent buildings on the property, as well as space for 1,400 to 1,500 camp sites.

“For us to put our entire festival on one footprint is so exciting,” Wright said. “We’re looking forward to creating a cool space for them. And it’s to expand our business model.”

Organizers said their “long-term goal” would be to host other events on the festival’s grounds throughout the year.

She said their goal is to have the new location ready for this summer’s festival in July.

Meteor sightings sweep Wisconsin

Thursday morning, the Midwest was greeted with a fireball traveling across the sky. The Meteor Society received 118 reports of a meteor sighting across Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska, according to WBAY-TV.

Many of the reports in Wisconsin came from the western side of the state. Here’s a map of the sightings.

The fireball was captured on video by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences rooftop camera.

Anti-trans legislation takes severe toll LGBTQ+ mental health and well-being

As legislative sessions have been in motion in 2022, there have been at least 12 new anti-trans bills filed across seven states in the U.S., reports The 19th. One of those states is Wisconsin.

According to recent studies, these waves of legislation have taken a severe toll on LBGTQ+ youth. A poll from Morning Consult and the Trevor Project found high reports of stress, anger, sadness and fear for the future at the end of 2021, as well as a struggle to access basic needs. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said the debate around anti-trans bills has had a negative affect on their mental health.

“That’s the unspoken but pretty obvious thing here, is that if you’re feeling not great about yourself, and you’re feeling angry, and you’re feeling pessimistic about the future, you don’t feel like you have a future,” said Abbie Goldberg, a clinical psychology professor at Clark University. “No one has your back.”

LGBTQ+ youth already experience high rates of poverty, experiencing homelessness, food scarcity and lack of care both physically and mentally — issues that have all been made worse throughout the pandemic.

“These bills have incredibly significant material consequences for individual human lives,” added Goldberg.

Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.