Janesville54.7°

Official has economic optimism

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JAMES P. LEUTE
March 10, 2011
— Wisconsin's economy is on the mend, and now is the time for disenchanted, dislocated workers to rejoin the workforce, said Manny Perez, who was confirmed a week ago as secretary of the state Department of Workforce Development.

Perez was in Janesville on Wednesday to tour the Rock County Job Center and meet with the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.


Earlier in the day, he announced that Wisconsin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January fell to 7.4, a slight improvement over the December rate of 7.5 percent. The rate in January 2010 was 9.2 percent.


"This is a great time for individuals to reenter the workforce, help the state reduce its unemployment burden and help revitalize our economy," Perez said.


Many economists have said that Wisconsin mirrors the nation in that official unemployment rates tend to paint a rosier picture of the local economy than really exists, primarily because so many dislocated workers have given up on job searches and are no longer counted as being "officially" unemployed.


Those same economists have said that if all of those disenchanted people suddenly reenter the workforce, unemployment rates will increase.


That's true if those people don't find jobs relatively quickly, said Perez, who added quickly that he's confident the state's job picture is improving.


As evidence, he pointed to Tuesday's release of Manpower's Quarterly Employment Outlook Survey, which indicated that April-June hiring in Wisconsin is expected to outpace the nation.


In Wisconsin, 22 percent of firms surveyed said they plan to hire more workers while 8 percent said they expect reductions in their payrolls. Another 66 percent plan to maintain current staff levels.


"The business outlook for Wisconsin is changing," Perez said. "The governor has been very aggressive in changing the tax and regulatory framework, and that will change the perception and the business outlook in the private sector.


"There is a lot of sentiment in the private sector to grow and to invest."


In addition, Perez said the state is at the beginning of its annual hiring cycle.


The longer people stay out of the job market, the more difficult it is for them to successfully reenter it, he said.


"This is a great opportunity for individuals," he said. "The longer you stay out, the more obsolete your skills become. Now is the time to look at what's available for jobs and take advantage of the programs at the job center to possibly retrain yourself."


Perez said the state's online job site—jobcenterofwisconsin.com—lists 27,000 openings.


More than 600 of them are in Rock County and include jobs that pay from minimum wage up to $33 per hour with benefits.



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