— October unemployment rates declined in eight of Wisconsin’s 72 counties over the month, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The largest decrease of 0.6 percentage points occurred in northwestern Douglas County. Price County’s unemployment rate declined 0.1 percentage points from October 2019.
But unemployment rates increased in all of Wisconsin’s 12 metropolitan areas over the month. The largest increase of 0.5 percentage points occurred in the Oshkosh-Neenah and Racine metro areas.
Likewise, unemployment rates increased in all but three of Wisconsin’s 34 largest cities in October. Superior, located in Douglas County, was one of the three that had the largest decrease in unemployment.
The regional differences largely have to do with industry concentrations, said economist and UW-Madison professor Noah Williams.
“For example, areas reliant on tourism generally have lower employment as we move into winter,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean higher unemployment though, as there is also a decline in the seasonal labor force, both with temporary moves and with people back in school.”
He noted a special aspect about the coronavirus pandemic was its large impact in the service sector — leisure and hospitality particularly, such as full-service restaurants and hotels.
“Cities have fared worse than rural areas because they have a higher concentration of employment in service sectors,” said Williams, who is also the director of the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy.
He explained the downtowns of Madison and Milwaukee have seen much less traffic and congestion, as many office workers are still working remotely, and people are shopping online versus heading to brick and mortar stores.
“This means that much of the supporting industry, such as restaurants, have fewer customers, even apart from the public health restrictions that have limited their capacity,” he said.