economy

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Local economies across America struggled through 2020. The coronavirus pandemic brought many businesses to a grinding halt and has kept many people out of a job.

UW-Milwaukee professor and chair of the economics department Scott Adams says Milwaukee is struggling along with everyone else and is not doing much better or worse than comparable cities. 

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For months, the state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has been criticized for its backlog of unpaid unemployment claims. Currently, it's at more than 35,000. That's a reduction from nearly 400,000 last summer. The backlog led to the resignation of the department's secretary, Caleb Frostman, in September.

Get ready for one of the most unpredictable monthly jobs reports in a while.

The pandemic has come roaring back, filling hospitals with coronavirus patients, while restaurants and retail shops empty out.

That is expected to put a squeeze on job gains: Forecasters expect a report Friday from the Labor Department will show that U.S. employers added fewer workers in November than the 638,000 created a month earlier.

How much less is uncertain as the pandemic makes it hard to forecast economic indicators.

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The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development's top leader resigned Friday after failing to find a way to address a massive backlog of unprocessed unemployment benefit claims sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Emily Files / WUWM

The city of Kenosha is in the national spotlight after Jacob Blake was shot seven times by a police officer. Since then, the city has seen nightly protests, buildings set on fire, tear gas and two protesters shot to death. 

Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET

U.S. employers added 1.8 million jobs last month, as the unemployment rate dipped to 10.2%.

The pace of hiring slowed from June, when employers added a record 4.8 million jobs. That suggests a long road back to full employment for the tens of millions of people who have been laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Updated at 9:32 a.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic triggered the sharpest economic contraction in modern American history, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Alesandra Tejeda

As of Thursday, Milwaukee County has had more than 17,100 cases of COVID-19 and 374 deaths from the virus.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley says that while the greatest impact of COVID-19 is on human life, it’s also impacting finances. He says the impact of the coronavirus could total near $300 million in lost jobs, reopening costs and service needs.

Updated at 11:34 a.m. ET

New claims for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time in four months — since March 28 — as states began reimposing lockdown restrictions in an effort to reverse a surge of coronavirus cases.

More than 1.4 million new claims were filed during the week ending July 18, an increase of more than 100,000 over the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Chuck Quirmbach

Nearly half the Wisconsin small businesses that applied for a federally-funded grant triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic were initially rejected. But state officials hope more firms will still get into the program known as We're All In.     

Millions of Americans are facing the threat of eviction as a federal moratorium that has protected renters during the pandemic is set to expire Friday.

That eviction moratorium, coupled with unemployment assistance established in the CARES Act, has helped some renters stay in their homes.

Four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, some Americans still haven’t received any unemployment benefits.

Among them is DeiDra Blakley, a Milwaukee casino worker who was laid off in March. Here & Now spoke to her last week about her unsuccessful attempts to collect benefits from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

For Lorena Schneehagen, the additional $600 unemployment payment each week during the coronavirus pandemic has held her family's expenses together.

She's an out-of-work preschool teacher in Ann Arbor, Mich., whose son is about to start college.

"I need that to help pay his tuition," Schneehagen said. "And for food and just to pay the general bills."

Chuck Quirmbach

Updated on Friday at 11:32 a.m. CT

Wisconsin's unemployment rate dropped to 8.5% in June — a bit of good news that came Thursday as Democratic lawmakers released proposals to remove obstacles and broaden access to unemployment benefits.

The jobless numbers also came as Gov. Tony Evers' administration temporarily reassigned 100 state workers to help address a backlog in claims.

Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

Wisconsin's unemployment rate dropped from 13.6% in April to 12% in May, a “nice surprise” that reflects just the very beginning of the state's reopening after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor's stay-at-home order.

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Many of us are about 12 weeks into being cooped up at home. Well, if we’ve followed public health guidelines to limit contact with other people. And even though the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state's safer-at-home order, the local hotel and Airbnb industry is still feeling the effects of people taking social distancing seriously.

It may seem obvious, with double-digit unemployment and plunging economic output. But if there was any remaining doubt that the U.S. is in a recession, it's now been removed by the official scorekeepers at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The bureau's Business Cycle Dating Committee — the fat lady of economic opera — said the expansion peaked in February after a record 128 months, and we've been sliding into a pandemic-driven recession since.

Chuck Quirmbach

Wisconsin economic development leaders say they're still about 10 days from accepting applications for $75 million in federal grants to small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. But state officials also say they're working on the right message for independent-minded Wisconsin.

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More than half a million people in Wisconsin have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus outbreak, according to the latest figures from the Department of Workforce Development. But many have yet to get relief. The state has yet to pay 16% of claims.

Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Caleb Frostman says the backlog is due to the sheer volume of claims, shortage of staffing, and antiquated technology.

Updated at 9:38 a.m. ET

More than 1 in 4 U.S. workers have lost their jobs since the coronavirus crisis shut down much of the economy in March.

Just last week, another 2.1 million people filed for unemployment benefits, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's down 323,000 from the previous week but brings the total for the past 10 weeks to 40.8 million, which represents 26% of the civilian labor force in April.

Chuck Quirmbach

COVID-19 restrictions for businesses continue to differ across southeastern Wisconsin, depending on where the companies are located. Some communities are only offering recommendations for reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Other cities have kept orders.

Some of the greatest remaining differences are for the bar and restaurant industry.

The United States is still losing jobs at an alarming pace two months after the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Another 2.4 million people filed claims for unemployment last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That's down 249,000 — or 9% — from the previous week, but still painfully high by historical standards.

In the past nine weeks, jobless claims have totaled 38.6 million. That's roughly one out of every four people who were working in February, before the pandemic hit.

Chuck Quirmbach

“A live experiment.” 

That's what a local business leader says we're in after this week's state Supreme Court ruling throwing out Wisconsin's safer-at-home restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent decisions by Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to maintain many limits. In contrast, Waukesha County says it's only issuing health recommendations for its businesses, not orders.

Updated at 5:19 p.m. ET

Nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week — bringing the total to 36.5 million in the past eight weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The number of people filing claims has been steadily dropping for weeks, since hitting nearly 7 million during one week in March. Still, claims remain at historically high levels, suggesting that the coronavirus isn't done pummeling the U.S. economy.

Chuck Quirmbach

More Wisconsin hospitals are again offering services that were shut down while health care facilities focused on treating COVID-19 patients and urged the delay of non-urgent treatment.

We're now getting a better idea of what the loss of those other patients cost the health care industry.

Evers Allows Nearly All Wisconsin Retail Stores To Open With Limits

May 11, 2020
Ann-Elise Henzl

Updated at 2:44 p.m. CT

Gov. Tony Evers on Monday allowed nearly all nonessential retail stores to reopen as long as they serve no more than five customers at a time, partially lifting the restriction that has kept them closed for weeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Outbreaks in the meat industry aren't new. In the early '90s, mad cow disease was a trade problem that affected the entire industry, halting the sale of beef worldwide. Then a large outbreak of bird flu in early 2013 was a pathogenic problem that led to thousands of birds being euthanized.

Coronavirus is a different challenge for the meat industry since it affects plants' high concentration of workers. Some meat plants have about 1,200 workers, and they're at greater risk of getting COVID-19 because they're often standing elbow-to-elbow while working.

Updated at 11:43 a.m. ET

The Labor Department delivered a historically bad employment report Friday, showing 20.5 million jobs lost last month as the nation locked down against the coronavirus. The jobless rate soared to 14.7% — the highest level since the Great Depression.

The highest monthly job loss before this was 2 million in 1945, as the nation began to demobilize after World War II. The worst monthly job loss during the Great Recession was 800,000 in March 2009.

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People eligible for unemployment benefits are starting to see an extra $600 a week from the federal government. That's due to Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. 

People who receive regular unemployment insurance, pandemic unemployment compensation, work share or trade readjustment allowances are eligible for the additional $600

SCREENSHOT / FINCANTIERI MARINETTE MARINE VIDEO

A Wisconsin shipbuilder won a contract for up to 10 frigates on Tuesday, beating out three other shipbuilders, as the Navy seeks to build smaller, lethal warships during a time of growing threats.

The $795 million contract calls for Fincantieri Marinette Marine to move forward with design and construction of the lead ship, with options for up to nine more frigates, the Navy announced Thursday. The contract carries a value of $5.6 billion if all 10 ships are built, the Navy said.

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