Fewer MKE jobs, but Wis. rate drops

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent in October, down from 7.3 in September, though Milwaukee lost 4,500 jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Milwaukee has frequently experienced higher employment rates than many other Wisconsin cities. In September, Milwaukee’s unemployment rate was 6.9 precent, while Madison, Oshkosh, Green Bay and Sheboygan had unemployment rates of 4.6 percent, 5.7 percent, 5.7 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively.

“The unemployment rate and the number of jobs created are calculated using two different methods,” said Abdur Chowdhury, chair of the department of economics. “The unemployment rate is calculated through a telephone survey of households, while the number of jobs created is calculated based on information received from employers. So sometimes they may diverge.”

He said the unemployment rate measures the percentage of the total labor force that is unemployed but actively seeking employment and willing to work.

Milwaukee’s unemployment rate is relatively low compared to the national rate of 7.9 percent and the rates of some other major cities, including Chicago, which had an October unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, a number Orlando matched in September.

But Milwaukee is not doing as well when compared to cities like St. Louis, Cleveland, Dallas and St. Paul, which had unemployment rates of 7.0 percent, 6.6 percent, 6.3 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, in September.

Moreover, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 19.2 percent of residents in Milwaukee County are living below the poverty level.

The decline in jobs worries some students, who fear that the job market will not be favorable once they graduate.

“I definitely worry about finding a job after college,” said Lisa Bonvissuto, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. “I’m an English major, so I know finding a job in this economy is going to be difficult.”

But whether graduates will be able to find jobs, even if the number of jobs continues to decline in Milwaukee, very much depends on the degrees they earn, said Olga Yakusheva, a professor of economics.

“One has to look at where the new jobs are being created,” Yakusheva said. “Not everyone is going to find a good job, and that’s how it has always been, recession or not. The new jobs are now predominantly in the health care industry and professional and business services. There is also growth in retail, but I suspect it may be seasonal.”

Yakusheva said demand for some degrees is increasing while some continue to struggle.

“So that’s good news for graduates with a health care-related  degree or a business degree,” she continued. “Most experts agree there will be a persistent and growing demand for professionals with knowledge of health care management and administration. However, some degree fields, like those in Arts & Sciences, may continue to struggle in the labor market until the economy is fully recovered, which may take a bit longer.”