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UW Economist: Wisconsin economic comeback started with end of Safer At Home

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(The Center Square) – Hundreds of thousands of people continue to be out of work in Wisconsin, but one University of Wisconsin economist says the state is well on its way to an economic recovery.

UW-Madison economist Noah Williams told News Talk 1130 WISN’s Jay Weber on Monday that Wisconsin’s bounceback since the worst of the coronavirus this spring is a story for other states to hear.

“We had a relatively severe and rapid downturn in the middle of March and April with the first phases of lockdowns and voluntary cutbacks,” Williams said. “But we really bounced back very strongly. Particularly after the Supreme Court decision invalidating the governor’s Stay at Home Order, we bounced back very fast.”

Williams said the end of that order, which forced restrictions on all types of businesses in Wisconsin, was key to jumpstarting the state’s economic recovery.

So was Wisconsin’s strong manufacturing economy, Williams said.

“We remain a very manufacturing-heavy state,” Williams said. “Even during the lockdowns, a lot of manufacturers were able to keep operating. I heard someone say that as long as manufacturers were sufficiently creative, they were able to be declared an essential business.”

Unemployment in Wisconsin ticked-up to 5.7% in October. That is nearly twice what it was in February, before the virus, but is a far cry from the record 14% unemployment in April.

Williams said the problem now in Wisconsin is not that there are not enough jobs. He said there are not enough workers.

“There is still quite a bit of unemployment,” Williams said. “There’s unemployment in the service sector, restaurants, hotels. But manufacturers and retail are looking for workers.”

Williams said last week that the state’s economy has stalled. He blamed local lockdown orders for the decline. But Williams said, overall, Wisconsin is doing better than many of its neighbors. And will very likely do even better once the coronavirus vaccine becomes widely available.

“The real takeaway that I get from all of this is that the economy is a lot more resilient than I think people give it credit for,” Williams said. “Given the chance, I think the American economy is a powerhouse.”

By Benjamin Yount | The Center Square
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Reposted with permission