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State unemployment rate goes down due to ‘data distortion’

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is looking better, if only on paper.

A revised report to update a “data distortion” discovered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in Michigan dropped Wisconsin’s unemployment rate for September by half a percentage point to 3.4%, according to the state Department of Workforce Development. It had been stuck at 3.9% for several months.

The DWD reported the unemployment rate for October at 3.2%, the lowest the state has seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Scott Hodek, section chief of DWD’s Office of Economic Advisors, said the unemployment drop over the last two months is a result of adjusted data and cannot be attributed to any one economic event, including the end of enhanced federal unemployment benefits in early September.

“What we’ve seen nationwide and in statewide data, we haven’t really seen a surge in employment growth related to the end of the extended unemployment benefits either in the September or October data,” Hodek said.

Republicans have argued that the benefit motivated people not to work, only worsening the state’s worker shortage problem. DWD officials said it’s due more to a workforce gap driven by low birthrates, high retirement rates and low net migration and immigration flows into the state.

“We don’t have a lot of underutilized capacity in general,” Hodek said.

DWD’s report found that Wisconsin lost 1,000 non-farm jobs from September to October, but added 2,000 private-sector jobs over the same span.

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