Milwaukee area business activity slows in September
Ridership at General Mitchell up 2.1%

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Nov. 3, 2015

MILWAUKEE - Business activity slowed in the Milwaukee area in September, according to a report from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, even as some sectors saw hiring increases.

“Metro Milwaukee’s local economic trend has fallen into a bit of a lull,” said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s economic research director.  “While a majority of indicators are still pointing upward, the absolute number of positives has fallen to its smallest number in over three years (since February, 2012).”  

According to the report, 13 of 23 monthly indicators for September registered improvement compared to levels in September 2014; however, September’s total is down from August’s 14 upward pointing indicators and the 17 positives posted as recently as May. 

Some of the highlights of the report include nonfarm jobs in the metro area rising at a 1.1 percent in September compared to the same period last year. Local employment growth was down slightly from August’s 1.3 percent gain when compared to August 2014.

The education & health services sector had the largest amount of added jobs among major industry sectors in the metro area, increasing by 7,100 jobs for a 4.5 percent increase in September when compared to the same month in 2014, according to the MMAC.  Four other major sectors registered September employment gains: professional & business services (up 3.4 percent), financial activities (up 1.9 percent), leisure & hospitality (up 1.6 percent) and government (up 0.9 percent). 

Five of 10 major industry sectors posted job declines in September: construction & natural resources decreased 2.6 percent, manufacturing declined 1.8 percent, information was down 1.4 percent and trade, transportation & utilities decreased 0.4 percent, according to the report. 

Seeing a positive increase was the amount of air passenger usage at General Mitchell International Airport, which increased 2.1 percent in September compared to the same month in 2014.  According to the MMAC, September marks this indicator’s third month of year-over-year increase in passengers during the past 12 months. 

Along with a 13.9 percent decline in new unemployment compensation claims in the metro area in September, metro Milwaukee’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell 1.3 percentage points when compared to September 2014. The unemployment rate for September was 4.1 percent, the lowest unemployment rate posted in nearly 15 years, according to the report.

The report also showed that average weekly earnings fell 4.2 percent in September to $792 while the length of the average workweek declined 5.2 percent to 40.1 hours. Average hourly earnings posted a modest gain, up 1 percent over year-ago levels, to $19.75, according to MMAC.