By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dropped from 13.6% in April to 12% in May — a bit of positive economic news for the month when the state began to reopen more broadly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor’s “safer at home” order.
Gov. Tony Evers’ order, which the court struck down on May 13, had kept most nonessential businesses closed. Local restrictions in Milwaukee and Dane counties remain in effect, limiting the ability of businesses there to open as quickly as others.
Wisconsin’s unemployment rate, which was reported Thursday by the state Department of Workforce Development, is below the national rate for May of 13.3%. Wisconsin added 72,100 private-sector jobs in May.
“May’s job numbers show a strong increase in jobs, employment, and an unemployment rate that is more than a full percentage point lower than the national rate,” said Caleb Frostman, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
There were 338,100 fewer private-sector jobs last month than there were in May 2019, when the unemployment rate was 3.3%.
Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was initially reported at 14.1% for April, but it was revised down to 13.6%. The rates the past two months have been the highest since the Great Depression, when unemployment was around 25%. It hit a high of about 10% during the Great Recession.
Republicans have also been critical about how quickly the state has been processing the avalanche of unemployment claims, saying it’s taking too long. Through Monday, the department reported that 73% of claims submitted had been paid, 12% were denied and 15% were in process. The average time to receive payment was 19 days.
By Wednesday, 712 deaths from COVID-19 were reported to the state Department of Health Services and nearly 23,500 confirmed cases. Of those who contracted the virus, 75% had recovered and 3% died, the health department said. About 2.6% of test results reported Wednesday were positive, continuing a downward trend over the past two weeks.