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In this April 2022 photo, a billboard along Stoughton Road in Madison advertises job openings, wages and benefits for construction workers.

Wisconsin’s private sector employers added 14,400 jobs in September, suggesting that soaring inflation and fears of a looming recession have yet to dampen the state’s booming labor market. That’s according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Thursday by the state’s Department of Workforce Development (DWD). 

“As long as people have money and are willing to spend it, we should be in pretty good shape,” said DWD chief labor market economist Dennis Winters in a call with reporters Thursday. 

Despite “pretty robust” wage increases, demand for workers remains high, he said. Still, wages haven’t grown enough to fully offset inflation. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly wage or salary for the nation’s full-time workers was $1,070 in the third quarter of 2022, up 6.9% from a year before, still paling in comparison to the 8.3% increase in prices.

What's next for the state's labor market will depend on how much consumers spend this holiday season and on “some of the uncertainty that's going on in world events,” Winters said.

The state’s manufacturing, construction and leisure and hospitality sectors saw the largest increases in September, growing by 1,900, 600 and 6,600 jobs respectively since August, according to the monthly survey of employers. Those numbers reflect seasonally adjusted figures, which have been calibrated to balance the employment declines expected at this time of year. Nearly all industries saw a decline in raw jobs numbers, which have not been seasonally adjusted. 

Winter’s called the month’s report “short and sweet,” noting that it marked the eighth of nine months in 2022 in which the state had seen job growth. 

“Even as world trade is disrupted as much as it is, our exports are up and we continue to have manufacturing jobs,” Winters said. 

The seasonally adjusted figures show a record 133,600 seasonally adjusted jobs in the state’s construction industry, though it’s not clear how long that will last. With building costs still high and the mortgage rates increasing as the Federal Reserve tries to bring down inflation, the number of new home starts, a measure of how many homes were begun, is down compared to last year. The Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates by another three-quarters of a point in November and could raise rates further next year. 

Data from a second survey conducted each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell a slightly different story. The household survey, in which staff call people and ask if they’re working, found that 15,200 fewer Wisconsinites were working in September than in August, when adjusted for seasonal variation. The seasonally adjusted number of people who reported being unemployed and actively looking for work was up 3,600. 

Seasonally adjusted figures from that survey also indicate that the state’s labor force, the number of people who are working or actively looking for work, shrank by 11,600 in September. That reduced the labor force participation rate, or the share of the adult population that’s working or actively seeking work, by 0.3%.

Still, new and continuing claims for unemployment insurance hit new lows in September. That number will likely increase in the coming months as more people are laid off at the end of the year, Winters said. 

Because the number of jobs is growing and Wisconsin’s labor force isn’t, he expects the unemployment rate to remain near its current 3.2% “unless there's a very serious recession that we're not looking at at all.”

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