September Economic Trends
Published November 9, 2023
MILWAUKEE – Slow growth marked metro area economic activity in September, according to a monthly report by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). Thirteen of 23 local indicators pushed upward in September, down marginally from August’s 14 improvements.
“The aggregate number of positive indicators has been flat to trending downward for the better part of one year and September’s total is the smallest number of positives registered since March,” said Bret Mayborne, MMAC Vice President - Economic Research. “The current trend among these indicators suggests a slow growth environment as the metro area closes out 2023’s calendar year.”
Highlights of the data include:
Highlights of the data include:
- Nonfarm jobs in metro Milwaukee totaled 863,100 in September, a 0.6% increase from one year ago. The current pace of growth ranks marginally ahead of the 0.5% year-to-date average gain over 2023’s first nine months, but well below the 2.2% rate of growth posted in 2022.
- Despite modest overall job gains, growth by major industry sector was largely broad-based. Seven of 10 major industry sectors registered year-over-year job growth in September, led by a 3.9% increase in leisure and hospitality jobs. Among major industries with job declines, the information sector, down 5.6%, posted the steepest decline.
- Manufacturing employment posted its 30th consecutive month of year-over-year growth in September, but September’s 0.3% increase (to 115,100) ranks as the slowest gain registered in this 30-month span.
- Metro Milwaukee’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate rose against year-ago levels for the second consecutive month. September’s rate of 3.6% ranked 0.5 percentage points above the September 2022 rate and followed a 0.6 percentage point increase in August. The number of unemployed in the metro area rose 20.9% versus year-ago levels to 30,100, while September new unemployment compensation claims fell 2.1%.
- Slow gains in manufacturing employment were met with declines in manufacturing production worker indicators. Both average weekly earnings for such workers, down 3.3%, and average hourly earnings, down 2.2%, saw September year-over-year declines. Additionally, the average length of a manufacturing production worker’s work week also fell 1.1% in September to 35.1 hours, following a 2.2% decline in August.
- While mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County fell for the 24th consecutive month – down 13.7% versus year-ago levels – September’s decline was the smallest such decrease posted since November 2021. Existing homes sold in the metro area numbered 1,190 in September, a 19.6% fall versus one year ago, and this indicator’s 18th consecutive month of year-over-year decline.
- Air passengers usage of Mitchell International Airport continues on a strong upward trend. Passengers numbered 501,413 in September, up 12.2% from one year ago. September’s increase ranks above the year-to-date average increase of 8.6% registered over 2023’s first nine months.
Seasonally unadjusted data is used in this analysis, thus month-over-month job changes may be due to seasonal effects. A truer month-to-month trend is captured in seasonally adjusted data. Unfortunately for most metro areas, the breadth of employment and unemployment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is almost exclusively released in non-seasonally adjusted form. Total nonfarm employment is available as a seasonally adjusted series for the metro area.
The seasonally adjusted series showed a loss of 114,200 jobs in April 2020 (vs. March), the beginning of the COVID-19 recession. Since that time, the local economy added back 102,600 jobs cumulatively in the month-over-month record over the period from May 2020 to September 2023, or 90% of the initial loss.