MMAC: May Economic Trends report for metro Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee area economic indicators weakened in May, according to a  Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) monthly report. Seven of 23 May  indicators improved over year-ago levels, down from the 10 improvements posted in April.  

“After some positive momentum in April, the local economic trend took a step back in May,”  said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s Vice President – Economic Research. “Job indicators continue  to be flat, with modest falls in nonfarm jobs and small increases in the metro area unemployment  rate. Strength was more evident in local construction, housing and real estate indicators.”    

Highlights of the data include:  

  • The overall trend in jobs has been largely stagnant over 2024’s first five months.  Nonfarm employment averaged 858,300 in May, a 0.4% decline from one year ago.  May’s year-over-year decline stands higher than the 0.2% fall recorded in April but ranks  somewhat better than the average decrease of 0.6% over the year’s first five months.  
  • By major industry sector, the employment trend was mixed. Three of 10 sectors saw  year-over-year gains in May, led by a 2.6% increase in government jobs and a 1.9% gain  in construction, mining and natural resources. Conversely, six major industries registered  job declines with the sharpest falls in the information (down 6.7%) and professional and  business services (down 3.9%) sectors. One sector – other services – posted unchanged  job levels from one year ago.  
  • The net result of May’s small job declines is a small increase in the metro area’s  seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate. May’s 3.4% rate ranks 0.2 percentage points  higher than one year ago but lower overall than the 3.7% rate posted nationally. New  unemployment compensation claims rose 5.2% versus year-ago levels, down from the  9.2% increase registered in April.  
  • Manufacturing jobs were down 0.8% year-over-year in May, a smaller decline than both  April’s 1.1% decrease and the 1.2% year-to-date decline over 2024’s first five months.  For manufacturing production worker indicators, the average weekly work week increased over year-ago levels for the third consecutive month, up 0.6%, to 35 hours  while average hourly earnings for such works fell 12.5% and average weekly earnings  dropped 12% year-over-year.  
  • Local housing and real estate indicators show a more positive trend. Metro area existing  home sales rose 9% in May versus one year ago, following a 16.9% increase in April and  the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year increase. Mortgages recorded in  Milwaukee County rose 7.6% in April to 2,150 following a 21.8% gain in April and the  first back-to-back gains put together by this indicator since September 2021.  ∙ Air passenger totals at Mitchell International Airport continue to show gains with strong  summer activity anticipated. May’s 543,219 passengers mark a 9.7% increase over year ago levels and the 14th consecutive month of year-over-year gain. New car registrations  fell 16.1% in May (versus year-ago levels), to 895.
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