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DWD: February Local Unemployment Rates Announced

Rose Lynch (608) 266-6753
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Madison - Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Roberta Gassman today announced that 63 of Wisconsin's 72 counties posted lower unemployment rates for February 2004 as compared to February 2003 but that 68 counties had rates higher than the prior month.

"We are still seeing the effects of a sluggish national economy and the slow rate of job creation", Secretary Gassman said. "The statewide unadjusted rate showed an increase over the prior month and is higher than the national rate. The good news is that the rates are lower than one year ago, but we still are not seeing the job growth we would like, and need, to see."

Sixty-eight of Wisconsin's 72 counties reported higher rates for February than January; only two counties had lower rates in February (Menominee and Rusk); and one (Price) unchanged. On a more positive note, 63 counties experienced lower rates in February 2004 than they had reported for February 2003.

All eleven of Wisconsin's metropolitan statistical areas saw their unadjusted rates increase between January and February, and nine of those saw their seasonally adjusted rates increase as well. The La Crosse MSA and the Dane County MSA saw no change between January and February in their seasonally adjusted rates.

Although manufacturing losses were the base explanation for increasing unemployment rates over most of the past three years, manufacturing remained nearly unchanged between January and February. The reason for the slightly higher unemployment rates in February over January's rates does not seem to be tied to employment losses in any industry sectors. Rather, the increase appears to be from more people looking for work in February than in January. The number of people counted as employed actually rose, as did the number of jobs. But along with those increases came a slight rise in the number of people unemployed and a slight rise in the overall labor force. This appears to mean that more people were buoyed by positive economic news and began to increase their job searches.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates in February were Marquette at 12.2 percent, Juneau at 11.6 percent, Oconto at 11.4 percent and Rusk at 11.0 percent. The lowest rates were reported for Dane County at 3.3 percent, Eau Claire and Ozaukee counties at 4.8 percent and La Crosse County at 4.9 percent. It is normal for northern Wisconsin counties to have high unemployment rates in January, February and March as seasonal weather patterns curtail many industries. Another factor has been the difficulties experienced in Wisconsin's paper industry over the past few years.


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