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WI Projected to Lose 270K Jobs Due to Coronavirus

Since mid-March, the state of Wisconsin has processed at least 150,000 unemployment claims. (Adobe Stock)
Since mid-March, the state of Wisconsin has processed at least 150,000 unemployment claims. (Adobe Stock)
March 30, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- Unemployment claims have skyrocketed in most states due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Wisconsin is no exception. New estimates from a think-tank indicate the hemorrhaging of jobs will only get worse.

The nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute said by the summer, Wisconsin could lose about 270,000 private-sector jobs as the effects of the new coronavirus are felt. Julia Wolfe, state economic analyst with the institute, said many of these are jobs filled by hourly workers who have few benefits, such as paid-sick leave.

"Wisconsin does have a substantial leisure-hospitality sector and a substantial retail sector," Wolfe said. "It makes up almost a quarter of all employment in Wisconsin - people who are working in stores or in restaurants, or in bars, hotels."

Wolfe added these are industries where immigrants and people of color are disproportionately represented. State leaders are trying to speed up access to jobless benefits, and relief is also expected from a stimulus package from Congress.

But analysts say the ripple effect could be worse in states like Wisconsin, where paid sick-leave protections were rolled back nearly a decade ago and Medicaid expansion efforts have been blocked by GOP lawmakers.

Wolfe also said it's hard for many low-wage workers to find other jobs with so much public activity shut down. She said that's why state and federal policymakers need to provide as much help as they can, so these workers won't be in such bad financial shape when restrictions are lifted.

"Even if they're able to secure a job, if they've just been dwindling down their savings account, they're not going to be able to spend back in the economy like they want to," she said.

The report said nationally, 14 million jobs could be lost by summer.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI