Wisconsin Employment Trends with Benchmark Revisions

Wisconsin month on month employment (nonfarm payroll) grows at an annualized 4.8% in January, but remains 5.1% below January 2020 levels. NFP employment levels for December are benchmark-revised up by 51.7 thousand, or about 1.8%. Details from DWD.

Figure 1: Wisconsin nonfarm payroll employment, benchmark revised January figures (blue squares), pre-benchmark revision December 2020 figures (brown), both in thousands, seasonally adjusted. Teal arrow indicates benchmark revision for December 2020 observation. Source: BLS for pre-benchmark revision, DWD for post, author’s calculations.

Note that DWD has only released December (revised) and January (preliminary), and changes on one year ago. More complete time series will be available with the BLS release of state level employment on 3/15.

The two speed recovery continues. Manufacturing continues to grow month on month, as does accommodation/food services (4.5% vs 5.7% annualized), but the latter is down 19.8% while the former is down only 2.3%.

Figure 2: Wisconsin manufacturing employment, benchmark revised January figures (blue squares), pre-benchmark revision December 2020 figures (brown), both in thousands, seasonally adjusted. Teal arrow indicates benchmark revision for December 2020 observation. Source: BLS for pre-benchmark revision, DWD for post, author’s calculations.

Figure 3: Wisconsin accommodation and food services employment, benchmark revised January figures (blue squares), pre-benchmark revision December 2020 figures (brown), both in thousands, seasonally adjusted. Teal arrow indicates benchmark revision for December 2020 observation. Source: BLS for pre-benchmark revision, DWD for post, author’s calculations.

Finally, note that the decline in state and local government employment has seemingly been reversed, at least temporarily. That being said, the level of employment is down 7.2%.

Figure 4: Wisconsin state and local government employment, benchmark revised January figures (blue squares), pre-benchmark revision December 2020 figures (brown), both in thousands, seasonally adjusted. Teal arrow indicates benchmark revision for December 2020 observation. Source: BLS for pre-benchmark revision, DWD for post, author’s calculations.

19 thoughts on “Wisconsin Employment Trends with Benchmark Revisions

  1. Barkley Rosser


    Who is behind the recent decline in government employment? Is the GOP legislature or is this local governments facing revenue crunches? Or something else?

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Barkley Rosser: I don’t know where the reductions are concentrated. At the national level, 2/3 of the decline in local government employment is accounted for by reduced education related employment.

      1. pgl

        Everyone agrees we need to get our kids back in classes when it is safe for them and their teachers. Let’s not short change this over freaking out whether we will have enough for another tax cut for the rich.

  2. Moses Herzog

    I would assume there would be some “congruence” between the states on these numbers as far as how it breaks down on municipal vs state.
    https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/ceshighlights.pdf <<—–this is only for February

    But I bet Menzie knows better on this than me, or at least how Wisconsin differentiates from other states. My understanding is it's about 15% of the entire national economy if you add them both up together, but I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong on that figure.

    1. Moses Herzog

      I just did a random Google, and it appears that 15% is way too high, it’s more like 5%–6%. I know I got that number from somewhere I didn’t just pull it out of the sky. The denominator of that 15% ratio must have been something other than “the national economy”. Sorry for the bad number,

      1. Moses Herzog

        I want to correct this again. I think I originally had it right. For some reason when I went back to re-read my own comment (maybe I was tired??) I thought I was quoting the percentage of the national economy spent on education, which indeed is around 5%–6%, the total spending by state and local as a percentage of the national economy is I think pretty close to what I originally stated, 15%. It maybe higher or lower, but it’s pretty close in that range I believe. See what I get for trying to correct the comment of a true genius??

        : )

  3. Moses Herzog

    This might give some more data. Looks like it came out fairly recently:

    This discusses local spending, the first link is the abbreviated version, the second link is the longer more thorough version. The problem here is at first glance it only gives numbers up to 2017. That being said, I doubt the general change in the breakdown of the ratio (state vs local) of spending has changed that much since 2017:


    1. Barkley Rosser

      Yes, Wisconsin is kind of average on these matters. Thanks for finding that local has been declining while state has been increasing in Wisconsin, Moses. Of course education is indeed the biggie. The old rule of thumb I have thrown at students is that it is about half of state and local spending nationwide.

      I am now less sure about some of these off-the-top numbers. I just did some googling myself to check on the role of state and local spending in the national economy. The old number I used to throw at students was that state and local government activity is 11% of GDP, but my googling finds that is way too low. It has increase substantially over the last couple of decades. I found conflicting numbers, but I saw it ranging from 17-20% according to the source for recent years. Given that total government activity is 34% of GDP, that highlights that probably a majority of G in the economy is coming from state and local governments.

      This is something that i have long emphasized to students in macro. There is basically no discussion of it in pretty much any standard macro class or textbook. The focus is all on the federal government part of that G in the old C+I+G+NE = GDP. But in fact a majority of federal spending is not part of that G because it is transfer payments, with the DOD part the vast majority of the federal part of G. As it is, state and local governments tend to have much less in the way of transfer payments, as those budgets you linked to show, Moses. Mostly they are spending on actual goods and services such as education, fire and police, transportation, water and sewer, and so on.

      Of course one reason they get ignored in macro classes is that given their limits due to balanced budget rules they play no role in any sort of conscious fiscal policy, even if an argument for countercyclical fiscal policy at the federal level is precisely to offset the tendency for state and local spending to be pro-cyclical due to those rules and the tendency for their tax receipts to decline in recessions. This point is relevant right now in terms of the debates over the just signed ARP.

  4. pgl

    Cumulative COVID-19 vaccination doses administered per 100 people – This is counted as a single dose, and may not equal the total number of people vaccinated, depending on the specific dose regime (e.g. people receive multiple doses).


    Interesting chart. No – Israel does not have 106% of its population full vaccinated yet if some of these vaccinations were like my single dose of the Pfizer vaccine that I got yesterday. US is near 30 doses per 100 people which means we likely have got at least a single dose in over 10% of the population and full vaccination for another 10% of the population.

    Not a bad start for Biden’s 1st 50 days given the incompetence of his predecessor. But we need to do more. Get your vaccine and wear your mask.

  5. Moses Herzog


    People often have to learn the hard way. I find it interesting, when I see/hear stories about people dying or having long-term health issues from the Covid-19, it’s extremely rare that you hear/read attached comments such as “You know it’s really strange Fred died from the virus, because Fred wore his mask invariably”. I’ve maybe heard one parent whose very young daughter died from Covid make that claim in all these months of reading stories about deaths related to Covid-19.

    I wonder why that is??

  6. ltr


    February 16, 2021

    Covid-Linked Syndrome in Children Is Growing, and Cases Are More Severe
    The condition, which usually emerges several weeks after infection, is still rare, but can be dangerous. “A higher percentage of them are really critically ill,” one doctor said.
    By Pam Belluck

    Fifteen-year-old Braden Wilson was frightened of Covid-19. He was careful to wear masks and only left his house, in Simi Valley, Calif., for things like orthodontist checkups and visits with his grandparents nearby.

    But somehow, the virus found Braden. It wreaked ruthless damage in the form of an inflammatory syndrome that, for unknown reasons, strikes some young people, usually several weeks after infection by the coronavirus.

    Doctors at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles put the teenager on a ventilator and a heart-lung bypass machine. But they could not stop his major organs from failing. On Jan. 5, “they officially said he was brain dead,” his mother, Amanda Wilson, recounted, sobbing. “My boy was gone.” …

  7. ltr

    March 12, 2021



    Cases   ( 816,198)
    Deaths   ( 5,980)

    Deaths per million   ( 650)


    July 4, 2020



    Cases   ( 29,170)
    Deaths   ( 330)

    Deaths per million   ( 36)

    1. Moses Herzog

      Part of the problem is (to my best guess) is lack of interaction and interpersonal communication with Black people. Outside of Milwaukee, Madison, and maybe some other “college towns” where are you going to find a significant portion of Blacks inside the state of Wisconsin?? Green Bay maybe because of past years of manufacturing jobs?? If you can’t directly interact with a group of people, you’re often going to go on rumors and half-truths and human’s mind tends to remember the negatives.

      I am not afraid to admit, my opinions on Blacks drastically changed when I spent roughly 1 year in a Lawton Oklahoma grade school (which had a significant portion of Blacks because of its proximity to Fort Sill, and probably additionally because of Cameron University, which was bigger and more respected than it is currently). My opinions and preconceptions on Chinese people, Koreans also, changed when I spent time in China. I think northern states have a “different kind” of racism (still a very troubling kind) than you find in the South, because they have no knowledge base other than what they see on TV to go from. I strongly suspect Canada may also have this same “kind” of racism towards Blacks, but I do not know. I strongly suspect this is the same “type of” racism you see with Michigan gun militias, a racism born of lack of personal interaction with Blacks.

      1. Barkley Rosser


        There are very few Blacks in Green Bay, with football players making up half of them. The major locations for Blacks in Wisconsin outside of Milwaukee (the vast majorit) and Madison are Beloit (yes) and Racine.

    2. Barkley Rosser


      I do not live there now, but I did for quite some time and I have a daughter who does and I get back there (or did) regularly and frequently, so know the state pretty well. It is perhaps the state with the highest percentage of its population that is German, along with a substantial number of people of Nordic ancestry, particularly Norwegian, along with having a tradition of distrusting people from the East Coast.

      These facts may not be the full explanation, but the state has long had a sharp duality between a very progressive part and a very reactionary part. The state is where the Republican Party started in 1854 in Ripon, with recently arrived refugees from the failed revolutionary uprisings in Germany prominently part of that, with some of these even in contact with Karl Marx, such as Union General Wedemeyer. It sould be out of this state Republican Party that the later Progressive Party’s leaders would emerge, such as Robert M. LaFollette of Madison, still a stronghold of progressive attitudes. Milwaukee even had Socialist Party mayor (“sewer socialists”) as late as 1961 in the form of the late Frank Zeidler (good German name, even if LaFollette is not). And we have continued to see quite progressive politicians coming out of there since, including such senators as the late Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day, and more recently Russ Feingold from Middleton, a siuburb of Madison, and current Sen. Tammy Baldwin, also of Madison, who is the first open lesbian to serve in the US Senate.

      But then in other parts of the state we have long seen highly reactionary and even racist politicians, with recent Governor Scott Walker coming out of the Milwaukee suburbs, which include New Berlin, and during WW II the outright pro-Nazi Bund probably having its strongest base in Wisconsin, and, of course, the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy coming from Appleton in the northeastern part of the state, long an area of reactionary propensity, and also where indeed current Sen. Ron Johnson comes from, namely Oshkosh, which is quite close to Appleton. And as its recent role as a super swing state shows, the balance between these forces in the state is quite close. It contains them both.

      I close this by noting that at times these impulses have even shown up within individual voters, even as I have mostly posed this as them largely being based in different parts of the state. But then Ripon also happens to be in the northeaster part of the state, not too far from Oshkosh. But there were people who, motivated by the anti-Eastern Establishment attitudes nurtured by both the Progressive and reactionary factions there could vote for Robert M. LaFollette, Joe McCarthy, and then George McGovern later, with all of them opposing US involvement in various US foreign wars from WW I to WW II and finally Vietnam as well.

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