City, county of Waukesha holding steady in recent unemployment figures

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

August 22, 2014

WAUKESHA - The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has released its July unemployment data, which shows both the city of Waukesha and Waukesha County holding steady while other areas in the state are cutting their jobless rates.

The city of Waukesha saw its unemployment rate drop slightly, from 6.8 percent in June to 6.7 percent in July, the 14th lowest rate among Wisconsin’s 32 largest cities. While the city was also 14th in June’s rankings, its total unemployment rate has dropped significantly from this point a year ago, when it stood at 7.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Waukesha County saw its unemployment rate stand pat from a month ago - finishing July at 5.3 percent - but while its number stayed the same, Waukesha dropped eight places, from 19th to 27th, among counties statewide.

Washington, Price, Columbia, Buffalo, Monroe, Eau Claire, Dunn and Chippewa counties all leapfrogged over Waukesha since June’s rankings. However, like the city of Waukesha, Waukesha County is well below where it was after July 2013, when the unemployment rate stood at 6 percent.

Suzanne Kelley, president of the Waukesha County Business Alliance, said she hopes funding from the state’s Fast Forward program will begin making a difference across all of Waukesha.

“This money is specifically targeted for training,” she said. “So we hope Waukesha County companies apply for training grants for this money that is available through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.”

The program, signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker last year, helps address the state’s need for skilled workers. According to its website, the program created worker training grants and makes other investments to prepare workers for jobs available today and in the years to come.

“We know there continues to be a significant number of job openings throughout the county and there continue to be individuals who are unable to find jobs,” Kelley said. “(This) tells me they need additional skills to be ready for the jobs that are available.”

Kelley said funding from Fast Forward grants can go toward almost any imaginable field of training - from manufacturing to construction to transportation, information technology, financial services, health care and agriculture.

She said in addition to Fast Forward grants, money has also been made available to train workers with disabilities.

“That money really can be helpful to help train a portion of the 5.3 percent of individuals who remain unemployed,” said Kelley.