By The Numbers: Coronavirus Slams Wisconsin Economy

By: Cori Petersen

290,000 Apply for Unemployment

As of April 5, 290,000 Wisconsinites have applied for unemployment benefits since Gov. Evers declared Wisconsin to be in a public health emergency March 12. About 69,300 applied the week of March 14 about another 115,700 applied the week of March 23, and then another 103,000 the week of March 29, according to the Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) unofficial numbers. Monday, March 30 saw the most applications with an unofficial total of 24,664 just that day. Tyler Tichenor, spokesman for the DWD, said that the week of March 23 “we had about a 75% increase in the number of applications than we did at the height of the Great Recession.”

22 Facility Closures and 47 Mass Layoffs Reported for March

There were 22 facility closures reported to the state and 47 workforce reductions, which add up to 69 data points for the month of March. State law requires companies of 50 or more employees to provide notice to employees and the state 60 days prior to a mass layoff. Last March only saw 11 data points for these categories. Of the 47 reported company layoffs, over half occurred in Madison and Milwaukee — with 17 in Madison and 11 in Milwaukee. As of April 6, April has already seen six mass layoffs throughout the state and seven facility closures.

Chalk art in Milwaukee.
Chalk art in Milwaukee.
Chalk art in Milwaukee.

Publicly Traded Companies Lose Over $100 Billion in Revenue

While it is still very unclear how long this will last, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the economic landscape across the country and Wisconsin is feeling it in large firms and small businesses alike. CROWE examined how the value of Wisconsin firms have reacted to COVID-19 by plotting the market capitalization of 56 of the state’s 60 publicly-traded companies, Rockwell Automation, Kohl’s and Harley Davidson being some of the most recognizable. In other words, they created a Wisconsin index.

On February 21 market capitalization was about $290 billion for the Wisconsin index, and as of March 20, these firms had lost over $100 billion of revenue.

By plotting the S&P 500 alongside Wisconsin’s publicly traded companies, CROWE concluded that the Wisconsin economy is behaving much like the national economy, that is until recently. The lines track alongside each other up until about March 18 when Wisconsin’s companies took a dip further than the national average.

“We’re definitely losing revenue with all the postponements — weddings in particular,” said Ryan Day. “Sure, everything might be up and running again come May, but couples can’t make their guests wait till the last minute, hence all the ‘just in case’ postponements. It’d be nice to have more clarity.”

To get them through this time they are exploring the various options made available by the government. “Still unsure of the best program, if they even apply to a husband and wife operation,” said Ryan Day. “Forgivable grants? Low-interest loans?” They are seemingly leaving no stones unturned.

Three Companies Look to Hire a Total of 8,700 New Employees

But in the midst of this chaos, parts of the market are thriving, namely grocery stores and chains like Wal-Mart. With people staying at home and not knowing how long we will be confined to our dwellings, many have stocked up on household goods which caused the now notorious rush on toilet paper. But items are flying off the shelves so quickly that many stores are hiring to increase their workforce for the duration of COVID-19. Wal-Mart, CVS and Amazon are hiring 800,000 new workers nationwide.

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