Current Economic Analysis

On this page we collect pieces by CROWE researchers focusing on economic issues and trends in Wisconsin and around the world.

UPCOMING EVENTS

There are no upcoming events to show.

PAST EVENTS

  • May 11, 2021: The UW Now Livestream and Q & A “THE FUTURE OF THE UW SYSTEM“: Talks by Roger Roth, Wisconsin state senator, chair of the Universities and Technical Colleges Committee, and author of the report on the future of the UW System, Ananth Seshadri, professor and Todd E. and Elizabeth H. Warnock Distinguished Chair of the Department of Economics, Cory Nettles, managing director at Generation Growth Capital, Inc and Katherine Lyall, former president of the UW System. Moderated by Mike Knetter, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association. Watch on YouTube
  • April 13, 2021: The UW Now Livestream and Q & A “ECONOMIC STIMULUS AND THE IMPACT ON OUR FUTURE“: Talks by CROWE’s Associate Director Dr. Kim Ruhl and Dana Peterson, chief economist and center leader of economy, strategy, and finance at The Conference Board; moderated by Mike Knetter, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association. Watch on YouTube View Slides 
  • March 31, 2021: Professor Ananth Seshadri, Todd E. and Elizabeth H. Warnock Distinguished Chair of the Department of Economics and CROWE Faculty Fellow testified at the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges Watch on YouTube Watch video with Wiseye user account View Slides 
  • March 2, 2021: The UW Now Livestream and Q & A 
    “Restaurants Today and in the Future”
    : Lightning Talks by CROWE’s Associate Director Dr. Kim Ruhl and other experts,  moderated by Mike Knetter, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.  Watch on YouTube  View Slides 
  • Jan 26, 2021: The UW Now Livestream and Q & A 
    “Outlook for the U.S. Labor Market”
    : Talks by two leading UW economists, Erica Groshen and Noah Williams, about their predictions for economic recovery, moderated by Mike Knetter, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association. 
     Watch on YouTube  Summary 
  • Jan 11, 2021: Thompson Center: Virtual event 
    “Jobs, Skills and the Prison-To-Work Transition”
    : Staff economist Junjie Guo shared key findings from a Thompson Center research grant on the prison-to-work transition. Co-researchers included Dr. Ananth Seshadri and Dr. Chris Taber. 
     Watch on YouTube Read Full Report
  • Jan 4, 2021: American Economic Association: Virtual event 
    Prof Noah Williams gave a presentation at the American Economic Association’s ASSA 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting. His talk focused on “Consumer Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic”. View slides

May 10, 2021

The (Poor) Performance of the Unemployment Insurance System during COVID-19 in the United States and (Especially) Wisconsin

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment increased at a rate never before seen in the United States. In response, the federal government expanded unemployment insurance benefits to aid those thrown out of work. However the rapid increase in unemployment claims put incredible strain on the unemployment insurance system, leading to non-payments and delays which limited the program’s effectiveness. While unemployment insurance system performance deteriorated nationwide, Wisconsin was one of the worst performing states across many different metrics.
Although unemployment claims have grown sharply since COVID, a smaller share are now leading to benefits. Payment rates for unemployment claims have fallen from 45% to 20% nationwide, and to 12% recently in Wisconsin. Part of the decline is due to a large increase in applications from workers who do not qualify for benefits. Adjusting for changes in the pool of applicants suggests that recent national claims are much closer to pre-pandemic levels than the reported numbers suggest. Since March 2020, Wisconsin has had one of the lowest payment rates in the country, 5th of the 48 states with accurate data. But its pool of workers has changed less, suggesting that the low payment rates are due more to problems processing claims.
During the pandemic, unemployment benefits payments lagged claims significantly, with some filers going months without hearing on their cases. In Wisconsin nearly 30% of first unemployment payments were delayed more than 70 days, the 8th highest rate among states. Wisconsin’s continued claims also had delayed payments at more than double the national rate. While payments have been slower, they have not been more accurate. Amid growing reports of rampant fraud, the fraud detection rate has dropped to near zero, with detected cases of fraud down 41% even as claims have exploded. Further, although the payment rate in Wisconsin has fallen, overpayments have increased. In the 2nd half of 2020, the state’s overpayment rate was 27%, the 2nd highest rate in the country. For 2021:Q1, Wisconsin overpaid claims by more than $12.8 million.

Read the Full Research Report

Media Coverage:
May 11, 2021: APG Wisconsin- The Center Square
May 11, 2021: Wisbusiness.com
May 12, 2021: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 12, 2021: Wisconsin Spotlight
May 12, 2021: NBC26 Green Bay
May 13, 2021: Wisconsin Public Radio

First payments all as a percentage of initial unemployment claims, seasonally adjusted. Totals for the United States (black line) and Wisconsin (red line).
Percentage of first unemployment payments delayed more than 70 days, totals for the United States (black line) and Wisconsin (red line).
Distribution across states of first payments as a percentage of initial claims, cumulative share from March 2020 through March 2021.
The distribution of overpayments across states. Established cases of non-fraud overpayments as a percentage of initial unemployment claims, cumulative for 2020:Q3 and 2020:Q4.

May 7, 2021

Wisconsin’s economy: May 2021

Executive summary

This brief reviews several indicators of the Wisconsin economy.
Employment: The labor market is stable, with an improving outlook. Initial unemployment claims have fallen to their lowest levels since the pandemic began. Payroll employment is 129,000 workers below its March 2020 level, which is an improvement over February. The March, 2021 state unemployment rate stands at 3.8 percent, giving Wisconsin the ninth-lowest unemployment rate among U.S. states. Among Wisconsin metropolitan areas, Madison has the lowest unemployment rate (3.7 percent) and Racine the highest (5.9 percent).
Retail trade: Total retail trade growth in Wisconsin has returned to near pre-pandemic levels. Growth rates remain low in the electronics and appliances and apparel sectors. The gasoline retail sector is growing, due in some part to rising motor fuel prices.
Inflation: Midwest-region inflation rates continue to rise, reaching almost 3 percent in March.¹ Prices in the medical care and food and beverage sectors are relatively steady while prices in the apparel and transportation sectors are showing signs of growth after months of decline. Inflation in the food and beverage sector is stable, but remains above its pre-pandemic levels. Transportation prices, which includes motor fuel, have risen sharply over the last month.
Share prices: The index of publicly-traded firms headquartered in Wisconsin has caught up to the S&P 500, after lagging the major index for all of 2020. The index continues to track the S&P 500.

¹Note that this growth is based on the relatively lower prices in March 2020.

Read the full Data Brief

Weekly initial unemployment claims in Wisconsin
Retail Winners in Wisconsin
Inflation in the Midwest
Measures of job loss in Wisconsin
Unemployment rates in Wisconsin
Retail Losers in Wisconsin
Components of Midwest-region inflation
Equity prices of public firms headquartered in Wisconsin

Updated: May 14, 2021 (First posted: Feb 18, 2021)

Job Openings and Labor Market Tightness During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract
In March and April of 2020, for both the U.S. and Wisconsin, the number of job openings per capita dropped by about 20%, the weekly number of new online job postings dropped by over 40%, and the number of job openings per unemployed worker, a standard measure of labor market tightness, dropped by about 70%. Although there were some fluctuations, all three measures have been recovering since then, especially in the summer of 2020 and in the first few months of 2021.

The latest data suggest that job openings in both the U.S. and Wisconsin have exceeded their pre-pandemic levels. For the U.S., the number of job openings is now about 20% above its pre-pandemic level. This is still well below the increase in unemployment caused by the pandemic which is now about 50%, suggesting there is still a lot of slack in the national labor market. For Wisconsin, both unemployment and new online job postings have increased by about 37% from their pre-pandemic levels, suggesting the labor market in the state is now about as tight as it was before the pandemic.

Read the Full Data Brief

Changes in Job Postings vs Unemployment across States
New Online Job Postings in Wisconsin by Sector

Updated April 30, 2021 (First posted Feb 26, 2021)

Business Formation and Employment Dynamics During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract
This update includes a summary of the most recent weeks of applications for Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) in Wisconsin and five additional Midwestern states. Business dynamism continues to be strong. We also review employment dynamics associated with business openings, expansions, contractions, and closures during the third quarter of 2020, a period where labor markets showed early signs of recovery from the initial effects of the lockdown measures in the second quarter of 2020. At this early stage of the recovery, there is preliminary evidence that business formation is fairly associated with the strength of the labor market recovery.

Read the Full Data Brief

Number of weekly applications for Employer Identification Numbers or EINs – a widely used proxy for business formation – for Wisconsin.
Cumulative Excess Applications in Wisconsin (% gap relative to 2017)

April 23, 2021

Current Private Indicators on the Wisconsin Economy: Small Business Employment and Consumer Spending

Summary

I use two private data sources to analyze the labor market and consumer spending in the state of Wisconsin. I first analyze labor market data from a sample of mostly small businesses. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, by mid-April 48% of these businesses were closed, with employment down 59%. A sharp recovery followed, which flattened out in the summer, and tailed off in the fall of 2020 with the spike in virus activity. The labor market has been relatively since late 2020, with employment down 19.2% and 19.7% of locations closed in the week ending April 21, 2021.

The food and drink sector had a larger 72% employment drop in April 2020, as locations remaining open had minimal staffing. As these establishments reopened, they brought back more workers. However this sector’s recovery stalled earlier and employment suffered a larger decline during fall 2020, stabilizing into 2021. For April 21, employment was down 32.8% with 26.5% of locations closed.

I also analyze transactions data on consumer spending, which had a sharper and more sustained recovery. After plummeting in April 2020, spending in Wisconsin recovered rapidly, with year-overyear gains from May throughout the rest of the year. Consumption was supported by income growth, and changes in consumption patterns cushioned the impact of the pandemic. After a strong holiday season, spending growth has continued into 2021. Total spending in Wisconsin was up 16.7% in April 21, 2021 relative to pre-pandemic levels in March 2020, compared to 15.7% nationwide.

Throughout the pandemic, consumers shifted away from social spending toward spending at home. But the overall growth in 2021 has seen recovery of previously languishing sectors. Spending on groceries soared while restaurants plummeted during the pandemic. But restaurants have seen strong growth in 2021, with spending now up 26.5% from pre-pandemic levels while grocery spending has cooled. Consumers are continuing to spend less on events (down 48.5%) and travel (down 9.4%), and more on home goods (up 67.2%). But events and especially travel have seen strong growth in 2021. After spiking during the early pandemic, online spending has remained high (up 44%), while in-store sales have recently recovered to growth from pre-pandemic levels (up 9.3%).

Read the full Data Brief

Total spending in Wisconsin and the rest of the United States, indexed levels.
Total spending on events & attractions (red line), travel & transportation (blue line), and home goods (black line) in Wisconsin, indexed levels.
Total spending at grocers (red line) and at restaurants (black line) in Wisconsin, indexed levels.
Changes in employees working, locations open, and hours worked at small businesses in Wisconsin. 7-day averages of daily data.

April 1, 2021

The Impact of Increased Unemployment Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We analyze the effects of the 2020 CARES Act implementation on the local labor market. We use observations from the Homebase Database which provides granular labor market data from a sample of small businesses across the United States. Our analysis consists of two parts.

In the first part we employ a linear probability event study model to explore effects of the lump-sum increase in unemployment insurance on employment probabilities for groups with different exposure to this policy change. We find little evidence for negative effects of the CARES Act on the labor market, which is in line with previous findings in the recent literature.

In the second part, we consider a regression analysis of different COVID-19 related measures put in place throughout the course of spring 2020 and their effects on employment probabilities. Our findings should serve as a possible explanation for the lack of effects observed in our first part. We find strong negative labor market implications for most of these measures across all observed groups prior to the CARES Act enactment.

The temporary negative labor market dynamics caused by these measures could be expected to partially overshadow the effects of an increase in unemployment insurance. That is, the huge negative shock of the onset of the pandemic made measurement of second order impacts, like the differential impact of benefits across workers, more difficult. Importantly, our results do not necessarily imply that enhanced benefits would continue to have minimal impact later in the pandemic as the economic recovery continues.

Read the full Research Report

Change in employment probability for different worker groups, separated by the replacement rate ratio of their unemployment benefits.
Impact of closure of nonessential businesses on the employment probability of different replacement rate ratio worker groups

March 19, 2021

The Distribution of Income and Income Taxes in Wisconsin 

Overview
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has recently released some summary statistics from Wisconsin state income tax returns, covering the years 2014-2019. These data provide insight on the distribution of income and income taxes in the state. In particular, I find that:
1. Reported incomes in Wisconsin have grown across the income distribution from 2014-2019, but the increases have been largest at the low end of the distribution.
2. The state’s income tax is progressive, with a large share of taxes paid by the highest income groups. The degree of progressivity has remained relatively constant since 2014.

Read the full Data Brief

Real growth at different percentiles of the distribution of reported income from Wisconsin state tax returns
Cumulative distribution of income and income taxes in Wisconsin, 2019

Feb 12, 2021

State and Local Government Revenue During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract
While the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic put stress on the budgets of state and local governments around the country, their tax revenues have since rebounded. In addition, the federal government has already allocated substantial aid to these governments, which has more than offset the losses they have suffered. In particular, after nationwide state and local tax revenue fell by over 17% from the first to the second quarter of 2020, it bounced back strongly in the second half of the year and ended 2020 up 1.3% over 2019 – roughly constant in real terms. In addition, during 2020 the federal government sent $280 billion in transfers to these governments, and has already allocated an additional $120 billion in aid. These federal transfers led to growth of 8.9% in real revenue for state and local governments. In this brief, I document the recovery in state and local government total revenues and tax revenue, as well the distribution of revenue growth across states and discuss other sources of state fiscal support.

Read the Full Data Brief

Note: The material in this brief formed the basis for the City Journal article, “Their Cups Runneth Over

State and local government revenue: total current receipts (blue line) and current tax receipts (red line). The data are 4 quarter averages, indexed so 2020:Q1=100. (Source: BEA and author’s projection.)
Distribution of state tax revenue growth rates, 2020:Q1-Q3 over 2019:Q1-Q3. (Source: Census Bureau.)

Updated Feb 5, 2021 (first July 24, 2020)

Wisconsin’s labor market and COVID-19

This brief reports labor-market indicators for Wisconsin to demonstrate the effects of COVID-19 on labor supply and demand. This report is part of a larger effort at CROWE to document and analyze the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the Full Data Brief

Weekly initial unemployment claims in Wisconsin. Kim Ruhl, Feb 5, 2021.
Unemployment rates in Wisconsin. Kim Ruhl, Feb 5, 2021.
Daily initial unemployment claims in Wisconsin. Kim Ruhl, Feb 5, 2021.
Measures of job loss. Kim Ruhl, Feb 5, 2021.

Jan 29, 2021

Industry Concentration and Local Labor Market Dynamics

Abstract

In recent years, a growing literature has analyzed the effects of various shocks and policies on local employment growth. One area that has garnered considerable attention among both researchers and policymakers is the role of international trade and globalization in local labor markets. The rise in imports of light manufactures from China in the wake of the country’s accession to the WTO and its effects on manufacturing jobs in the United States has been the subject of a growing literature in recent years. In this report we explore a plausible alternative explanation for local employment dynamics. In contrast to earlier work, we focus on total employment rather than manufacturing jobs and we hypothesize that counties with a less diversified industry mix tend to exhibit lower employment growth. We use county-level employment data from the County Business Patterns (CBP) for the years 1992-2016 together with detailed import statistics and we find that local variation in a standard concentration index can account for an economically and statistically significant share of local employment growth. Industry concentration matters more than exposure to the rise in Chinese imports. More diversified local economies are better able to absorb external shocks. Although trade exposure plays a somewhat more significant role in Wisconsin compared with the rest of the country, it does not diminish the economic or statistical significance of industry diversification for labor market outcomes.

Read Full Report

5-Year Change in Imports per Worker 1997-2002 (US$)
5-Year Employment Change 1997-2002 (Percent)

Jan 19, 2021

Forecasting the U.S. and Wisconsin Economies in 2021

Abstract
This paper provides forecasts for the United States and Wisconsin economies in 2021. The economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have made forecasting difficult. To deal with the volatility caused by the shutdowns and reopening requires modifying standard procedures. For each economy, we first estimate a mixedfrequency vector auto-regression model using data before the pandemic started in March 2020, and then use estimated model to forecast each variable forward by taking the data since March 2020 as given. We forecast that both economies will continue to recover in 2021. However, the recovery will be slower than it was in the second half of 2020, and most economic indicators may not reach their pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021. For the U.S. economy, we forecast that the year-over-year growth rate of real GDP will reach about 2.9%, personal consumption expenditures will grow by about 4.5%, inflation will remain below 2%, the  unemployment rate will drop to about 5.7%, the economy will add about 3.3 million nonfarm jobs, and the average hourly earnings will increase by about 2.4%. For  the Wisconsin economy, we forecast that the year-over-year growth rate of real GDP will reach about 3.0%, the unemployment rate will drop to about 4.2%, and the economy will add about 122 thousand nonfarm jobs. We project that the manufacturing sector will experience a faster recovery than the overall economy, and both economies face significant uncertainties. There is a significant chance that both economies will grow by 5% or more, but also a significant chance that both economies will grow by 1% or less.

Read the full report

Real GDP (gdp) in the U.S., in billions of dollars. The red vertical line indicates December 2020. The black curve reports the actual values when available and median forecasts otherwise. The yellow shaded area reports the 67% forecast intervals.
Nonfarm Employment Level in Wisconsin (Thousands of persons). The black curve reports the actual values when available and median forecasts otherwise. The yellow shaded area reports the 67% forecast intervals.
The unemployment rate (ur) in the U.S. The red vertical line indicates December 2020. The black curve reports the actual values when available and median forecasts otherwise. The yellow shaded area reports the 67% forecast intervals.
Unemployment Rate in Wisconsin. The red vertical line indicates December 2020. The black curve reports the actual values when available and median forecasts otherwise. The yellow shaded area reports the 67% forecast intervals.

In the Media

May 13, 2021: Prof Williams discusses recent CROWE report on Wisconsin Public Radio
Should Unemployment Benefit Processing Be Outsourced?

Throughout the pandemic, thousands of Wisconsinites have struggled to get unemployment benefits through the state’s antiquated processing system. We talk to a UW economics professor who has an idea for solving that problem: outsource the claims processing and payment program to private industry.
Listen to the discussion

May 12, 2021: Prof Williams on NBC26 Green Bay
How inflation is affecting Wisconsinites

WISCONSIN (NBC 26) — We’re more than a year into the pandemic and many things in our lives have changed: from working from home, to how we socialize, and now to how we’re spending our dollars.

Just this April, inflation across the U.S. accelerated at its fastest rate in more than 12 years.

Noah Williams, University of Wisconsin-Madison Economics Professor and Director for the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy explains more on the consumer price index (CPI) report released Wednesday:

Read the full story and Watch Video

May 12, 2021: Story on Prof Williams’ recent CROWE report in Wisconsin Spotlight
DWD Failing the Unemployed, Taxpayers

A new report shows Gov. Tony Evers’ incompetent Department of Workforce Development has failed on two critical fronts: Getting unemployment checks to eligible claimants and protecting the state’s Unemployment Insurance system from fraud and waste.

As Wisconsin Spotlight has reported, DWD’s bungling forced tens of thousands out-of-work Wisconsinites to wait months for their benefits after a flood of claims hit the system last year.

“Wisconsin was one of the worst performing states across many different metrics,” the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE) study finds.

Continue Reading

May 12, 2021: Story on Prof Williams’ recent CROWE report in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Report says state should outsource unemployment services after pandemic failures”

After a year fraught with unemployment payment delays, high rates of unemployment denials, call center headaches and other issues, a new University of Wisconsin report suggests the state should outsource at least a portion of its unemployment system.

The report by UW economics professor Noah Williams detailed areas the state lagged behind most other states as the wave of unemployment claims swamped the state’s Department of Workforce Development last year.

Williams, the director of the UW-Madison Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, said the report shows how the state struggled to keep up with incoming claims, which put some claimants in precarious situations the program is meant to curb.

Continue Reading

 May 11, 2021: Prof Williams on WMTV’s report on unemployment benefits

Watch video

May 11, 2021: Prof Williams’ recent CROWE report featured in Wisbusiness.com
CROWE report says only 3 out of 10 people got UI checks

— Only three in 10 Wisconsin workers who applied for unemployment insurance over the past year have been paid, according to the latest report from the conservative think tank CROWE.

In recent months that’s fallen to one in 10. The Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy also reported many of the unemployed workers who were paid endured long delays with 30 percent waiting 10 weeks or more for a UI check. These are among the lowest payment rates and longest delays in the country, the report said.

Continue Reading

May 11, 2021: Prof Williams’ recent CROWE report featured in APG Wisconsin
Report: Wisconsin unable to handle coronavirus unemployment crush

The Center Square-Wisconsin quickly fell behind in last year’s unemployment crush, and a new report says the state never recovered.

The Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, led by UW-Madison economist Noah Williams, released a report Monday that details just how bad things have been in the state.

“Only 3-in-10 Wisconsin workers who applied for unemployment insurance over the past year have been paid, and in recent months the rate has dropped to 1-in-8,” the report states. “Further, many of the unemployed workers who were paid endured long delays, with 30% waiting ten weeks or more for payment.”

Continue Reading

May 7, 2021: Professor Williams writes about the jobs report in National Review’s Capital Matters
“Jobs Report Shows Incentives Still Matter”

Recent employment data leave no doubt that crisis policy is not suited to a pandemic.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy in March 2020, economic policy evolved, or devolved, rapidly. The initial CARES Act response paid little attention to incentives or long-term consequences, instead focusing on getting money out the door and propping up workers and businesses during lock-downs. But as the pandemic persisted, the policy-makers remained focused on providing liquidity and public support even as the economy reopened. While the initial policy response showed that “everyone is a Keynesian in a foxhole,” by the time the Biden administration came into office the rationale had changed. Now expanded public support became the end, not a temporary means. Instead of arguing that disincentive effects were of secondary concern in propping up an economy in crisis, many now argue that incentives are of little importance in influencing economic outcomes. The April jobs report may mark an important turning point.

Continue Reading and Listen to the Article

April 20, 2021: Professor Williams gives us a closer look at the labor market in a story in NBC26 Green Bay
“The Abbey places sign up to lure workers as they struggle to hire”

“We are seeing increase in signs of tightness along other dimensions, job opening rates have gone up, vacancy rates have gone up. The new online job listing are now higher than they were pre-pandemic,” said Noah Williams.” Watch Video and Read the full story

April 9, 2021: Story in The DailyWire quotes Professor Williams’ tweet
“Biden’s Chief Economic Advisor Won’t Counter Biden’s False Claim Of 19 Million Jobs From Bill”
Economics prof reacts: “By the same logic, my plan to have a cup of coffee every day will create 16.3 new million jobs.” Read the full story

March 8, 2021: CROWE Economist Simeon Alder’s report cited in Forbes
Home Businesses Poised To Boom If Government Gets Out Of The Way

recent study from the Center for Research On the Wisconsin Economy at the University of Wisconsin shows that business formations have been surprisingly strong over the last year. Economist Simeon Alder analyzed data on weekly applications for Employer Identification Numbers—which new businesses are required to obtain from the IRS for tax purposes—and found that weekly applications were above trend. Read the full article on Forbes

March 8, 2021:‘WisBusiness: Wisconsin State Journal quotes Professor Noah Williams

A cascade of coronavirus cases and cancellations washed over Wisconsin and the Madison area a year ago this week, upending life for everyone and ushering in a state of physical distancing, economic downturn and unprecedented deaths for which the end may be near but remains unclear. Continue Reading

March 5, 2021:‘WisBusiness: The Podcast’ features CROWE Director Noah Williams

Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy Director Noah Williams expects the state will get back to pre-pandemic unemployment rates by the end of the year.

This is despite an economic slowdown in the fall, when daily COVID-19 cases climbed to record numbers.

He said in the latest “WisBusiness: The Podcast” episode that Wisconsin is about 70 percent out of the “pandemic hole,” but recovery will depend on COVID-19 vaccinations and a stimulus package. Continue Reading Listen to the podcast

March 4, 2021: Professor Williams on WKOW
UW-Madison seniors struggle to secure jobs

MADISON (WKOW) — Jobs are hard to come by for college seniors with fewer entry-level opportunities available.

Noah Williams, a UW-Madison economics professor, says the job market it is “difficult” to find entry-level positions.

“We actually have seen job openings bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, but a lot of those openings are for more experienced workers,” Williams said. Continue Reading

March 1, 2021: Professor Williams discusses budget tax proposals with The Badger Herald
Gov. Tony Evers’ budget allows 0.5% increase in sales tax, addresses concerns from municipalities

Gov. Tony Evers proposed his $91 billion 2021-23 biennial budget Feb. 16. The budget addresses COVID-19 recovery, University of Wisconsin funding and tuition freeze, tax cuts and municipalities’ concerns.

Specifically, Evers addressed municipalities’ concerns in the budget by allowing counties to increase the sales tax by an additional 0.5% on top of the 0.5% currently allowed under state law. Continue Reading

Feb 28, 2021: Forbes quotes Professor Williams
Three Rust Belt Governors Seek More Taxes, Less School Choice

The trillions of dollars in higher federal taxes backed by President Joe Biden and supported by the Democratic-led Congress are not the only tax threats facing Americans this year. Individuals, families, and employers located in three rust belt states — Wisconsin, Illinois, and Pennsylvania — also have Democratic governors who are calling on their state legislatures to enact billions of dollars in higher state taxes in 2021.

As part of his 2021-2023 executive budget, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) has proposed several tax increases to start his third year in office. Governor Evers seeks to raise nearly half a billion dollars by restricting the state’s manufacturing and agriculture tax credit, and $350 million in additional tax revenue from increased state taxation of capital gains.

“At a time when we want to encourage saving and investment in the state, the Evers budget would sharply raise the cost of capital by increasing capital gains taxes,” Noah Williams, Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, told the Institute for Reforming Government (IRG), a Wisconsin-based think tank that recently published an analysis of Evers’ budget. Continue Reading

Feb 22, 2021: Professor Williams discusses budget tax proposals with WisBusiness
Evers’ budget tax proposals total a $1 billion increase
The net impact of Gov. Tony Evers’ budget tax proposals would be a $1 billion increase over the biennium, according to his office.

The biggest chunk of that would come from matching state tax laws to the provisions of a tax bill former President Trump signed in December 2017. The combined impact of the numerous changes would be an increase of $540.1 million.

UW-Madison economics Professor Noah Williams said in general, “federalizing” the state tax code makes sense as it simplifies the combined tax code.

“I also can’t help but point out that the state standard deduction is a great candidate for federalizing,” said Williams, founding director of the conservative Center for Research On the Wisconsin Economy. “As it is now, the phase-out of the deduction means that families a bit below the median income have the highest state marginal income tax rates. Continue Reading

Feb 19, 2021: Kurt Bauer, president & CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce cites CROWE report in Milwaukee Business Journal
Sales tax increase would slow economic recovery

“While state and local revenue projections initially plummeted at the beginning of the pandemic, by the end of 2020 local government tax receipts have generally returned to their pre-pandemic levels, according to a report from the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy”. Read the full story here or here (Read the CROWE Report)

Feb 15, 2021: Sheboygan Press quotes Professor Williams
Despite the pandemic, Sheboygan County still saw an increase in sales tax revenue in 2020. Here’s why.

“Not surprisingly, travel and tourism are all way down. Goods spending overall has increased, but they’re spending on home goods, sporting goods, and home entertainment,” Williams said. “People aren’t going out as much or on vacation, so they’re spending to make life at home better.” Read the full story

Feb 11, 2021: City Journal features an article by Prof Noah Williams
Their Cups Runneth Over
State and local government revenues have recovered from the pandemic, and further federal aid is unnecessary 

“California is not only poised for recovery, but we’re seeing real signs of recovery in our state,” Governor Gavin Newsom announced in early January, as he unveiled a state budget with record spending fueled by a $15 billion budget surplus. Yet two weeks later, Newsom sent a letter to President Biden expressing support for his plan to give an additional $350 billion in aid to state and local governments.

Similar stories have played out in other states. “We’re going to need a robust federal support system to help our states and economies recover beyond the federal CARES funds that expire at the end of the year,” said Wisconsin governor Tony Evers in November. Yet within weeks, the state was projecting a budget surplus, and by January it had revised that estimate up to $1.8 billion. Rather than drawing on these reserves, Wisconsin added to its “rainy day” fund, the balance of which is expected to hit nearly $1 billion this year. Continue Reading

Feb 8, 2021: Green Bay Press Gazette quotes Prof Williams
Sales tax increased $1 million despite a pandemic 
GREEN BAY —A well-timed U.S. Supreme Court ruling and related legislative action helped Wisconsin and Brown County avoid drops in revenue as consumer spending habits shifted due to the coronavirus.
In fact, governments that receive sales tax distributions saw some significant year-over-year gains in 2020 thanks to an increase in overall consumer spending.
……… The increases might seem counterintuitive at a time when retailers, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and tourist attractions across the state continue to struggle, hoping to eke through the pandemic.
But macroeconomic data shows consumer spending, which dropped sharply in March and April, quickly recovered in May and grew 5-10%, said Noah Williams, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy. Read the full story here  or here is a Link to the PDF Version

Feb 3, 2021: Professor Williams discusses economic issues on Talk Radio, Janesville
Do you think minimum wage should be raised? If so, to what amount?
Prof Noah Williams joins the talk radio program, Janesville, to discuss $15 minimum wage, the fiscal health of Wisconsin, financial issues facing the state during COVID and how we move forward. Tune in to the discussion

Jan 27, 2021: CROWE Director Prof Noah Williams spoke about the minimum wage on WMTV NBC15.
How beneficial would a $15 minimum wage be for Wisconsinites?
The impacts of a higher wage floor may vary greatly across the state, Wiliams adds, from rural to urban areas. He suggests in Madison there may not be much change because many low-wage jobs already start at $15/hr. Read more and watch video