Wisconsin Manufacturing Employment Peaked in September 2018

National manufacturing employment peaks nearly a year later, August 2019.

Figure 1: Manufacturing employment in US (blue), and in Wisconsin (dark red), both in logs, 2018M09=0. Light orange denotes Walker administration. Source: BLS, and author’s calculations.

See a discussion of how employment is faring in several Midwestern states in this WaPo article.

34 thoughts on “Wisconsin Manufacturing Employment Peaked in September 2018

  1. Ed Hanson


    It may be a trend or not. But rather than look at your exaggerated scale on your chart, let’s just see the seasonally adjusted numbers.

    September 2018 477,800 persons
    September 2019 471,000 persons

    A not so whopping difference of 6,800 persons.


    1. 2slugbaits

      Ed Hanson rather than look at your exaggerated scale

      Huh??? The chart says the same thing only expressed as log percentage points. Did you take high school math?

    2. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Ed Hanson: Well, in a state like Wisconsin, the decline from peak is 1.5%. A natural log is a natural log is a natural log…

      Or are you going to write something as stupid as you wrote in this comment?

      1. Ed Hanson


        I see you have a problem with my use of the words “exaggerated scale” and I see the point.

        What is exaggerated is the look of the graph. The fall is tiny, the number of loss workers is tiny, and the trend is tiny so as to make it uncertain whether it is a trend or not. But a visual look at the graph (that is, not looking at the scale) does not reflect the tinyness.

        Since Wisconsin is not local to me, I do not know if the the new dem Governor has instituted anything that caused the tiny decline. But I assume not, because I have not read of such here in your posts. I do remember several posts blaming President Trump’s trade policy causing trouble for Wisconsin. Now that President Trump has resolved those issues with our biggest and closest trading partners with the CMA. I am surprised that Wisconsin has not rebounded. Perhaps that is because Speaker Pelosi has had the agreement on her desk now for 9 months and not allowed action on this bill.

        But surely that can not be true because I have not read post after post here explaining how wrong the Speaker’s action, and how it is hurting Wisconsin.


        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Ed Hanson: I take it by “CMA” you don’t mean the Country Music Awards, but rather “USMCA”, or Nafta II… USMCA would do little to change the situation of Wisconsin, certainly not how it was hit by Section 232 tariffs or retaliation against US exports.

          1. pgl

            I bet Ed thinks Canada and Mexico did a deal without the USA. I would not blame them if they did leave Trump out of the negotiations!

        2. pgl

          Tell the 6700 people who lost their jobs that there are “tiny”. You’d guarantee that Wisconsin turns blue in 2020. Keep up the pretty stupid insults Ed as it ain’t helping your boy!

          1. Ed Hanson


            Don’t play the fool. You are the one always harping on uncertainty, and here is an agreement which would pass easily, except your buddy Speaker Pelosi is so adverse to anything that might be thought as a President Trump \win must be avoided. The Country (and Wisconsin) be hanged.

            But heaven forbid that you look at anything on a non-partsan basis either.


          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Ed Hanson: The US would win if it got rid of the tariffs it had imposed on China — I would applaud if he did so. Even more so if he got rid of the Section 232 tariffs. USMCA (what you mysteriously call the “CMA”) is a minor change, which the unions oppose. I thought Trump was for the American worker. This is his chance to revise USMCA to closer match the preferences of the American worker.

  2. pgl

    “See a discussion of how employment is faring in several Midwestern states”.

    The new White House spokeswoman will come out and blame the governors of these states as had people kissed The Donald’s rear end, employment in their states would be soaring!

    1. Barkley Rosser

      Yes, Ed has missed the boat on the party line on this one. It is all Tony Evers’s fault! Bring back Scott Walker!

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Steven Kopits: Sure if you throw $1.4 bn in tax credits, you’ll get something. But on benefit-costs grounds, I don’t think the ratio > 1.

  3. The Rage

    Credit card defaults are surging. Consumption slowdown has begun. I bet the tariff threat caused a bunch of people on the left coast to load up last summer. The surge was just not explainable any other way lol..

    1. Willie

      I don’t know about loading up. Being out here on the left coast, all seemed about like normal. But then, what’s normal? Up here in the upper left corner, we have been on an Amazon fueled growth binge that has caused all kinds of dislocations. It could disguise the kinds of changes that would be readily apparent to people in another part of the country.

      What is true is that the frenzied pace of construction seems to be abating somewhat. That’s an observable economic indicator. I do it by counting how many tower cranes I can see at any given spot in the city. The number has fallen, but there’s still thickets of them here and there. The growth has spread from Seattle to neighboring areas, which means the region will continue to grow and the inherent problems with growth will spread outward as well.

      What’s this got to do with Wisconsin? Not much, except that this area did some dumb job buying things, but nothing like Wisconsin’s Foxcon, emphasis on con, giveaway. It also goes to show that Wisconsin’s right wing politics are not the precursor to success. This area has a rising minimum wage. The dire right wing predictions of a ghost town were overblown, considering that this area is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation. There’s a whole lot behind that, some of it dumb luck. I’ll take it, at least for now, thanks.

      In 60 years, this may be tech’s rust belt after whatever comes next makes big tech decline like the industrial midwest. But, that’s not going to be due to the political slant of the locals, nor will it be, in my opinion, a result of tax giveaways or lack thereof.

      Back to the west coast loading up – I don’t believe that’s happening. Imports are up, exports are down. That was going to happen with Trump’s policies anyway.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Bruce Hall: You can take a look at the evolution of employment as the MAC was phased in, as shown here. Hard to see the acceleration, even as the fiscal cost of the credit ballooned (double estiamted).

      1. Moses Herzog

        For those that don’t read this gunk regular, I’m assuming “MC”= manufacturing credit. What it often really is, is a free handout and subsidy to business owners who a large extent of the time would have moved in anyway, and regardless can exit state X, Y, or Z any moment they get a bigger handout.

        It’s not that far of a stretch to say “tax credits” (in actuality a subsidy) are big businesses’ version of email phishing. And the dumdum states are always happy to bite on the phishing hook. Wisconsin answered FOXCONN’s phishing email, and got the only result an intelligent person could expect.

        Of course when states handout these gifts they only hurt themselves and forfeit all or most of the economic activity benefits back to the owners. But guys like Scott Walker can’t get free lunches, future revolving doors to a cushy job, or campaign (PAC) funding if they don’t toss tax revenues for the state to outfits like FOXCONN to rob out of the state. Then convince idiots walking around with a red dunce cap on that they just did them “a favor” attracting “job creators” to the state.

        One wonders (or I certainly do) how a state like Wisconsin (one of the more literate states in the nation) can be fooled and robbed so easily. Little wonder then that states like Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Alabama (at the bottom end of the literacy rankings) get robbed regularly with little notice.

          1. Moses Herzog

            I think most people got that you meant MAC but me. I was more doing that to clarify for those who don’t read these materials often, and thought it might help clarify the relation to business tax credits for beginners. I hope it didn’t come across as needling or nitpicking as I make to many errors in typing myself to get into that game.

      2. Bruce Hall

        How much confidence do you have in the survey. Looks like the downward trend may be correct, but the data might be suspect.

        From: https://madison.com/wsj/business/uncertainty-growing-in-wisconsin-s-manufacturing-sector-as-survey-finds/article_78849364-e609-56fe-ad4c-8f6dded3e330.html
        Dennis Winters, chief economist with DWD, said while the CES data is the best estimate for recent months, he anticipates an upward revision in manufacturing data when the survey data are compared to the QCEW next spring.

        Last year, we knew the CES survey was overestimating manufacturing job growth,” he said. “It appears this year the CES may be underestimating manufacturing jobs.

        While Wisconsin factories may not end up as hard-hit as the survey suggests, Winters said the state’s manufacturing sector, much like the nation’s, is slowing.

        “We’re on notice, we’re watching it,” Winters said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty among the ranks of what the future economy holds here, and there’s a lot of uncertainty that will push that one way or another.”

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Bruce Hall: I am not certain at all. But it’s what we have, and there is correlation with other Midwestern states, so…

          In addition, there is *much* more uncertainty surrounding household survey at state level, and yet that doesn’t stop some people from citing extensively state level unemployment rates…

    2. pgl

      The Institute for Reforming Government? Leave it to Bruce Hall to cite a right wing organization for “evidence”. Hey Brucie – I bet you did not know Scott Walker is their honorary chair. If you think these guys are an unbiased source then you are dumber than we could ever imagine!

      Seriously Bruce – are you so incredibly incompetent that you never bother to check your own sources? Or do you choose to flame this comment section with right wing intellectual garbage?

  4. Moses Herzog

    That Younkers mention in the WaPo article saddened me just a little bit more than the others. Younkers, in other regions of the country may not be familiar with it, but at one time Younkers was a very well respected retail outfit in the Midwest region of America. I may have even purchased a few things there way way way back in the day, or probably received some Christmas gifts from there when I was a child. Similar to how Sears and J.C. Penney were the Wal Marts of their day, but Younkers was more just a regional outfit. All I can say is they had good service and I never heard a bad word about them. Certainly the clothing quality was better than Wal Mart—in any time period you care to mention.

    I have too much of my father in me, not to feel a tinge of sadness deep inside me when I read of these businesses like Younkers closing. Oh well, we can still purchase ice cream made in the plant at Le Mars Iowa, can’t we?? At least for the next 48 hours….. ?? maybe…… ??

    I swear to G*d if they close down Taylor’s Maid Rites in Marshalltown Iowa I’m locking the bathroom door and getting the razor blades out.

  5. Moses Herzog

    Can anyone explain to me how Alabama is dark turquoise on the unemployment map?? Was mildly surprised Illinois looked as good as it did.

      1. Moses Herzog

        @ pgl
        Thanks for the reply. This seems to ring true. I think that had been mentioned on this blog before and I had somehow managed to forget it. Maybe because I am pro-Union and a part of me does not like these facts. They are nonetheless facts.

        I know you’re dying to hear my latest movie reviews /sarc I saw Joker. I give it 8 on a 1-to-10 scale. Also saw “The Lighthouse”. Because I am a huge Willem Dafoe fan I had high hopes. Big disappointment. Dafoe and Pattinson did their part of the bargain with great acting. The Director FAILED with bad story-arch and weird staging of scenes. Disjointed and illogical. I give “Lighthouse” a 3 on a 1-to-10, and 2 of the 3 points are probably just because I like Dafoe so much as an actor.

      2. Moses Herzog

        Stay tuned to this channel, next week I will probably be reviewing “Motherless Brooklyn” with very few spoilers included.

      3. Willie

        Economic development could cause the political atmosphere there to change faster than it would have otherwise. It will still be slow-ish.

  6. Moses Herzog

    I believe Menzie has quoted a couple charts and thoughts from Mr Torsten Slok in the not too far distant past. Here’s some interesting thoughts related to “noncompete agreements”. These should be illegal in my personal opinion and should have been illegal from the get-go. But it’s strange how we don’t seem to care about individuals’ rights who reside at the bottom of the totem pole. Or even care about the “free mobility of labor” and “the benefits to society of competition”. Strange how “the law” always works it out that way. Good thing us “great Americans” never let things like morality get in the way. I know ignoring morality was helpful to southern evangelical “Christians” when they went to vote for donald trump:

    Thank “the Lord” that Republicans have saved low income people from themselves. Maybe “the Lord” giveth but Republicans won’t let you taketh. Oh wait…. I’m a dirty liberal and I forgot Republicans have exclusive rights and copyright claim to the term “God”. What the F— was I thinking??

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