A new report offers multiple measures of how the economy has been hard on Wisconsin workers over the past decade.
Associate Director Laura Dresser of the Center on Wisconsin Strategies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says COWS has been releasing these reports every two years since the mid-90s. "You know the last two have been pretty brutal reviews of what's gone on in the economy for working people."
She says one of the standout statistics in the report is what the Center calls Wisconsin's jobs deficit. It's calculated using the number of jobs lost since the 2007 recession coupled with population growth. "We need 245,000 jobs just to get back to feeling like 2007, that kind of level of employment."
Hardest hit, says Dresser, has been Wisconsin's African American population. "One in four black workers looking for jobs. No other state had a rate that high."
While the median income has dropped nationally over the past decade, it's dropped faster in Wisconsin, by about eighty-five hundred dollars per person.
Dresser says one more telling measure is how many school districts now have substantial numbers of kids whose families are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price school lunch. "And that stress has gone up across our state from the north to the south, from conservative places to liberal places, from urban places to rural places," she says. "You can see it everywhere in our state. Extra challenges for our families, extra challenges for our schools."
As far as bright spots go, the report showed that manufacturing jobs have grown over the past few years, but not nearly enough to get back to levels the state saw a decade ago. The state's median wage has also grown slightly this decade, but it's only a dollar more than what it was in 1979.