Unemployment down in most of state’s larger cities; Beloit an exception

Unemployment down in most of state’s larger cities; Beloit an exception

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development released February 2017 unemployment statistics Wednesday, showing unemployment numbers either remaining steady or declining in 32 of Wisconsin’s largest cities year-to-year; Beloit was one of only two that saw an increase.

Beloit’s unemployment rose a tenth of a percentage point to 6.2 percent compared to February 2016. Superior, the only other city that saw a rise in unemployment, saw a two-tenths of a percent increase to 5.1 percent.

Wisconsin’s overall seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, dropping to its lowest rate since 2000, according to the DWD.

Despite the lag, Beloit City Council President David Luebke said he remains optimistic about the city’s long-term prospects.

“I’m not that worried about (the numbers) because we’re making significant progress in Beloit,” Luebke said.

Luebke noted that more than 100 jobs were added this month at Pratt Industries, which opened a new cardboard box plant in the city. He said downtown’s revitalization also gives the city reason for optimism.

“I go down to get a bite to eat, the parking spaces are pretty filled up, the restaurants are full,” Luebke said. “Downtown Beloit is a destination, I feel we’re growing.”

Luebke said the numbers also reflect progress made since the recession. In 2010, Beloit’s unemployment rate peaked at around 19 percent.

Since then, Luebke said the city has put more of a focus on high-tech jobs, and the community has spearheaded new training initiatives for high school students to teach them the skills needed to work in these fields.

“A lot of manufacturing is not going to come back, so we have to tie into the economies of the 21st century,” Luebke said. “That’s what we’re doing.”

Beloit’s unemployment rate remains the second-highest among the state’s largest cities; Racine, despite showing a year-to-year drop in the unemployment rate, continues to rank last with a rate of 6.3 percent.

The February unemployment numbers revealed good news for the rest of Rock County. The countywide unemployment rate dipped two-tenths of a percentage point compared to February 2016, coming in at 5.2 percent.

Madison continues to have the lowest unemployment figures in the state, with a 2.9 percent rate.

Click here to view the February 2017 unemployment statistics for your city or county.