April Economic Trends
Published June 9, 2022
MILWAUKEE – Business activity indicators in metro Milwaukee shifted slightly downward in April, as 13 of 22 available indicators pointed upward for the month vs. year-ago levels, according to a monthly report by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC.) April’s aggregate is down from the revised 14 improvements posted in March.
Highlights include the 13th consecutive month of growing employment, including an 11.8% year-over-year increase in the leisure & hospitality sector and a 2.4% increase in manufacturing. Downward trends include metro area existing home sales falling 3.9% in the metro area, while mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County fell 30.8%.
“To this point in the year, the number of positive indicators in the metro area have been fairly consistent and largely match those posted in 2021’s final four months,” said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s economic research vice president. “Current results suggest continuing modest overall growth in the near term, yet persistently high consumer price inflation and tighter labor markets do give some pause for concern as 2022 moves forward.”
Highlights of the data include:
- Nonfarm employment in the Metro area rose for the 13th consecutive month on a year-over-year basis, up 1.6% in April to 839,200. April’s gain was slower than the 2% increase posted in March (vs. March 2021).
- Six of 10 major industry sectors registered year-over-year job gains in April. The leisure & hospitality sector recorded the largest percentage increase, up 11.8% vs. April 2021. For sectors with employment declines, the financial activities sector saw the steepest such drop, down 4.6% vs. one year ago.
- The metro area saw a 31.1% decrease in the number of unemployed over the past 12 months leading to a 1.6 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate. April’s 3.5% seasonally unadjusted rate for the metro area ranks somewhat higher than both Wisconsin’s 3% and the nation’s 3.3% rate.
- Manufacturing jobs rose 2.4% in April vs. year-ago levels to 113,000, an increase of 2,700 jobs since April 2021. April’s increase ranks slower than the 3.3% year-over-year gain posted in March.
- Among manufacturing production worker indicators, average hour earnings posted a double-digit gain for the fifth consecutive month, up 15.5% year-over-year. Nonetheless, a 13.9% decrease in the length of a production worker’s workweek led to a small decline in these workers’ average weekly earnings, down 0.5% from year-ago levels.
- Local housing and real estate indicators for April were negative. Metro area existing homes sold fell 3.9% vs. one year ago to 1,365 while mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County fell 30.8% to 2,546.
- Passenger levels at Mitchell International Airport continue to post strong year-over-year gains as passenger activity moves toward pre-pandemic levels. Passengers totaled 468,725 in April, up 35.9% from one year ago.
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 not seasonally adjusted form. Total nonfarm employment is available as a seasonally adjusted series for the metro area.
Annual revisions to the seasonally adjusted series now show a loss of 113,800 jobs in April, 2020 (vs. March), the beginning of the Covid-19 recession. Since that time, the local economy has added back 84,400 jobs cumulatively in the month-over-month record over the May 2020 to April 2022 period or 74% of the initial loss.