Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector added more than 8,800 jobs as of mid-year compared with a year earlier, marking the third-biggest increase in factory jobs in the nation over that span, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
State officials hailed the new data Friday as a positive sign for state manufacturing, which has been shaken in recent months by estimated year-over-year job losses based on a different employment survey.
The latest numbers are based on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which has been referred to as the “gold standard” for tracking job creation in the state.
The new QCEW numbers don’t cover the same period as the recent drop in year-over-year manufacturing jobs. That decline is based on seasonally adjusted data collected for what is known as the Current Employment Statistics.
The most recent CES survey found Wisconsin manufacturers employed 7,700 fewer people in October compared with a year earlier. It was the third month in a row that the year-over-year decline set a new record since the Great Recession.
However, Dennis Winters, chief economist with the Department of Workforce Development, who earlier this year anticipated an upward revision in manufacturing jobs, said the latest QCEW data show that the industry is doing better than projected in the monthly figures — at least through June.
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“We’ve known this was going to happen, this kind of validates what we were saying,” Winters said.
The monthly CES jobs report, which is based on a much smaller sample of employers than the QCEW, estimated Wisconsin had 476,000 manufacturing jobs in June, compared to the 490,000 found at the end of that month in the new QCEW report.
The last QCEW year-over-year decline came in February 2017.
Industry experts have pointed to international trade disputes and the rising cost of materials brought on by tariffs as a key factor behind uncertainty in Wisconsin’s manufacturing market.
When manufacturers face uncertainty in the economy they tend to brace themselves, rather than make new capital investments.
Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry is the state’s largest employer, representing nearly 16% of the state’s workforce.