Area's unemployment rate tops state, keeps climbing
The state Department of Workforce Development reported Wednesday that the Janesville-Beloit area's unemployment rate for February was 13 percent, up from the 11.6 percent reported in January.
While the January-February increase was expected, more shocking is the year-to-year change. In February 2008, the local unemployment rate was 5.8, a whopping 7.2 percent below last month's number.
Local unemployment numbers started reflecting layoffs at General Motors and supplier companies Lear Corp. and LSI in last month's report. Most of the workers associated with the December end of sport utility vehicle production started collecting unemployment in January.
Local economic development officials have said unemployment rates are high and are likely to stay that way for some time, barring a dramatic turnaround in the local economy.
Some state projections suggest Rock County's annual unemployment rate will remain in double digits through 2011.
Janesville's unemployment rate in February was 14.6 percent, up from 13.2 percent in January and up 6 percent from last February.
Janesville had the third-highest rate among Wisconsin cities, trailing Racine and Beloit.
Beloit's February rate was 16.9 percent, up from 15.2 percent in January and 8.1 percent last February.
The combined metropolitan rate of 13 percent is approaching the rate of 13.5 percent recorded in October 1986, when auto industry troubles were prevalent.
Between July 1981 and July 1983, Rock County consistently averaged an unemployment rate above 10 percent, with the high-water mark coming in March 1982 at 19.3 percent.
Economists and the state's Department of Workforce Development say the numbers for the Janesville-Beloit Metropolitan Statistical Area and Rock County are interchangeable.
Other areas of the state felt the pain as well, with unemployment hitting double digits in Appleton, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Wausau and West Bend.
The statewide unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, up from 7.7 percent a month ago and 5.1 percent last February.