National unemployment rates reached a 25-year high Friday, according to statistics released by the Department of Labor.
The rates jumped from 7.6 percent to 8.1 percent as the result of the loss of an additional 651,000 jobs in February.
Since November, payroll employment throughout the country has decreased by 2.6 million, affecting nearly all labor sectors, a DOL statement said.
Over the past year, the number of unemployed citizens in America increased by 5 million, with the unemployment rate rising 3.3 percent. However, in Wisconsin, unemployment rates for January increased by 1.2 percent, reaching 7.6 percent.
According to University of Wisconsin professor of public affairs and applied economics Andrew Reschovsky, the numbers reflect the status of today’s economy.
“(The year) 2009 is going to be a very tough year for the economy,” Reschovsky said. “It makes it much more unlikely that things are going to substantially turn around in the next six months.”
Additionally, unemployment has increased in all 72 counties of Wisconsin, according to January unemployment rates.
Dane and Iron counties underwent the second smallest unemployment increase of 1.1 percentage points, following Menominee County, which only had an increase of .5 percentage points.
Despite the slight increase in unemployment, Dane County held the lowest January rate recorded at 4.9 percent. Rusk County recorded the highest rate at 12.2 percent.
Annually, Menominee County had the only decrease in unemployment rates, declining 0.3 percentage points. The greatest rise in unemployment rose from 6.2 percentage points to 11.6 in Rock County.
Despite the increase in unemployment rates, national and state lawmakers are looking to stimulate job creation throughout the country.
According to a White House statement, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s stimulus package is expected to create 70,000 jobs throughout the Wisconsin, benefiting the entire state, including Dane County.
In a memo from Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk regarding a preliminary analysis of the stimulus package, money from the stimulus is estimated to create 200 private sector jobs as a result of the infrastructure enhancement and energy conservation work funded in the first phase of the stimulus package.
Stimulus money would also be used to fund highway and bridge enhancements as well as the exploration of the alternative energy potential of waste food.
Wisconsin lawmakers also passed a stimulus package designed to further job creation in the state. The package approved the use of $300 million in federal money to fund state projects.
“Jobs are related to construction of roads and bridges and infrastructure,” said Rebekah Sweeney, spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville.
According to Sweeney, 35 percent of the created jobs will be construction-based, 15 percent will be in industries that support construction and the remaining half will be decided upon and created depending on the increased flow of money into the state.
Republican lawmakers are skeptical about whether federal and state packages will have any effect on the current economic situation.
According to Kimberly Liedl, spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, though the stimulus packages will likely benefit short-term projects, the funds may cause problems in the long run.
Liedl added though the package may help create jobs in the short term, the unemployment burden is unlikely to be fully alleviated.
“Most of that money is going towards building projects. The people who are getting laid off might not be able to build roads and bridges,” Liedl said.
Kirsten Kukowski, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said the tax increases proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle as part of his budget will likely hurt unemployment rates as well.
“With unemployment numbers rising, Doyle’s $2 billion in tax increases won’t help put Wisconsinites back to work,” Kukowski said in a text message to The Badger Herald.