February, 2014

For further information contact Economic Research Director BRET MAYBORNE at (414) 287.4122

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April 10, 2014 - Eleven of 22 available business activity indicators for metro Milwaukee’s economy posted year-over-year gains in February, according to a monthly report by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). February’s 11 improvements are down from the 13 positives posted in January.

"
The aggregate number of metro area indicators trending in a positive direction is as small as it has been since early 2012," said Bret Mayborne the MMAC economic research director. "Nonetheless jobs continue to grow and the unemployment rate continues to shrink, but the foundation of growth has certainly become narrower in the early stages of 2014."


"Jobs continue to grow and the unemployment rate continues to shrink, but the foundation of growth has certainly become narrower in the early stages of 2014."

Bret Mayborne
MMAC Director
of Economic Research

     

Highlights of the report include:

  • Metro Milwaukee area nonfarm employment levels reached 815,100 in February, a 0.4% gain from one year ago. The rate of increase is down from the 1.5% rise posted in January (vs. January, 2013).
  • Only three of ten major industry sectors registered February job gains (vs. one year ago). Employment in the education & health services sector grew at a 4.2% rate, the month’s largest year-over-year percentage increase. Conversely, seven of ten sectors recorded February declines with a 3% loss in the financial activities sector ranking as the largest decrease.
  • Both local housing and real estate indicators tracked by the MMAC posted weakness in February. Existing homes sold in the metro area fell 12.1% vs. year-ago levels while the number of mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County dropped at a 48.5% rate.

Unemployment indicators in February posted positive results. The number of unemployed fell 10.6% in February (vs. February, 2013) following a 14.4% decrease in January (vs year-ago levels). New unemployment compensation claims fell at a 1.4% pace in February (vs. February, 2013), to 5,057, this indicator's seventh year-over-year decline in the past eight months.

The metro area’s seasonally unadjusted jobless rate fell 0.8 percentage point from one year ago to 7.2% in February (vs. the 8% rate in February, 2013). The metro area’s unemployment rate ranks higher than the 7% rate recorded for both Wisconsin and the U.S.

Indicators: February, 2014 vs. February, 2013
Overall nonfarm job levels averaged 815,100 in February, a 0.4% increase from one year ago. While job gains have now reached 41 consecutive months on a year-over-year basis, February’s gain was the smallest posted in 19 months (since July, 2012).

Overall employment growth has become largely dependent on two major industry sectors in recent months; education & health services (up 4.2%) and government (up 2.3%). The other services sector posted a modest 0.5% increase over the same time period.

On the other hand, seven of ten major industry sectors registered year-over-year job declines in February. The largest percentage decline was posted in the financial activities sector (down 3%), followed by the information (down 1.4%) and professional & business services (down 1.3%) sectors. The remaining four sectors registered modest job declines of less that 1% vs. year-ago levels. These sectors include the construction, mining & natural resources (down 0.9%), leisure & hospitality (down 0.7%), manufacturing (down 0.6%) and trade, transportation & utilities (down 0.5%) sectors.

Weakness continues in most manufacturing related indicators. Manufacturing’s 0.6% job decrease in February, was its ninth consecutive year-over-year decline. Among earnings and hours indicators for manufacturing production workers, the length of the average workweek fell 4.8% in February to 41.9 hours. Average weekly earnings followed suit, declining 3%, to $774, while average hourly earnings increased 1.9%, this indicator's 22nd consecutive year-over-year gain.

Double-digit declines were registered in area housing and real estate indicators tracked by the MMAC. Existing home sales in the metro area fell 12.1% in February, to 689, only this indicator's third year-over-year decline in the past twelve months. Mortgages recorded for Milwaukee County fell at a 48.5% pace in February (to 1,325), slightly larger than the 46.9% drop registered in January.

New-car registrations rebounded from a January decline. Registrations for the metro area rose at a 2.2% pace in February (to 1,820), up from the 8% decline posted in January. Registrations have risen in five of the past six months. February air passenger figures for Mitchell International were unavailable at the time of this report.

Other Indicators (latest available)
The value of signed construction contracts, as reported by F.W. Dodge for January, was $61.4 million, up 33.6% from January, 2013. Consumer prices nationally, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U), rose 1.1% in February (vs. February, 2013) to 234.781 (1982-84 = 100). The Milwaukee area CPI-U reached 224.705 for the second half of 2013, a 1.2% increase from 2012's second half.Both local housing and real estate indicators tracked by the MMAC posted weakness in February. Existing homes sold in the metro area fell 12.1% vs. year-ago levels while the number of mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County dropped at a 48.5% rate.