Wisconsin’s economy: March 2022

Kim J. Ruhl

Executive Summary:

By many indicators, the Wisconsin economy has recovered to pre-pandemic levels or beyond, while inflation has run high both in absolute terms and relative to the rest of the United States.

Employment: Most indicators point to a tight labor market. Initial unemployment claims have returned to their 2019 levels. The December 2021 state unemployment rate stands at 3.1 percent. In the December data, Wisconsin has the 10th-lowest unemployment rate among U.S. states. Among Wisconsin metropolitan areas, Madison has the lowest unemployment rate (1.4 percent, not seasonally adjusted) and Racine the highest (2.4 percent, not seasonally adjusted).

Retail trade: Total retail trade growth in Wisconsin has returned to pre-pandemic levels. We continue to see strong growth in the sporting goods and hobby, building materials, and gasoline retail sectors.

Inflation: Midwest-region inflation rates remain elevated at 6.9 percent (year over year) in January 2022. Inflation is positive in all sectors of the economy, with transportation inflation at 22
percent in December. Food prices continue to rise and the food-and-beverage sector inflation rate is currently 7.5 percent.

Share prices: The index of publicly-traded firms headquartered in Wisconsin had caught up to the S&P 500 in early 2021, after lagging the major index for all of 2020. Beginning in May
2021, the Wisconsin index has fallen behind the S&P 500 and remains below the benchmark index.

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