Wisconsin’s unemployment rate reached 2.9 percent in February, the lowest monthly level in state history, according to the Department of Workforce Development.
The employment milestone provides a major boost for Republican Gov. Scott Walker as he runs for a third term in November. When Walker took office in January 2011 the state’s unemployment rate was 8 percent as the country recovered from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
“Wisconsin is literally working as more people are employed today than ever before in our history,” Walker said in a statement. “This is a big win for Wisconsin!”
The figure is preliminary, meaning it could change as more data is collected for February. The preliminary unemployment rate in December was 3 percent, which tied the previous record set in May, June and July 1999, before it was adjusted up to 3.2 percent earlier this month.
The rate is below what economists consider to be full employment in the state and is symptomatic of a worker shortage that companies and Walker have been concerned about in recent years. Nonetheless, a low unemployment rate is also a sign of a healthy economy that should result in rising wages for workers.
Wisconsin continued to set a record high for the number of people employed in the state at 3.07 million and the total civilian labor force of 3.16 million. The labor force participation rate was 68.6 percent, which is still well short of the record high of 74.8 percent in September and October 1997.
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Democrats have harped on Walker’s failed 2010 promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term, a milestone the state has still not reached, according to the latest federal data. Job creation has continued to lag the national average for 25 quarters, while the unemployment rate is 1.2 percentage points below the national rate of 4.1 percent.
“Wisconsin’s economy is such a mess that we’ve seen declining family wages even with a low unemployment rate,” Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said. “Republican policies that reward corporations with massive tax breaks aren’t helping to grow our middle class or put more money in the pockets of hard-working families.”
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobbying group, attributed the milestone to Walker’s policies, adding that “other states should be looking to Wisconsin as an example of how to revitalize an economy.”
“Our state has never seen unemployment levels this low, and it is because government has gotten out of the way and made it possible for the business community to retain and create new jobs,” WMC president Kurt Bauer said in a statement. “Looking to where Wisconsin was less than a decade ago shows the true difference between public policies that aim to hamper employers and ones that empower employers to drive our economy forward.”
Source: Lincoln Journal Star
Featured Image: Getty Images
Inset Image: AP Photo/File