Door County’s unemployment rate climbed to 20 percent in April, the only full month when the state’s Safer at Home order was in place. The number represents 2,886 jobless people in Door County out of a workforce of 14,444.
The impact of COVID-19 hit all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, according to the numbers that the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) released last week. Door County had the 14th-highest unemployment rate in Wisconsin, where rates ranged from 9.7 percent in Lafayette County to 26.2 percent in Iron and Menominee counties. Kewaunee County had the third-lowest unemployment rate in the state at 10.2 percent.
The rates were not seasonally adjusted to measure and remove the influences of predictable seasonal patterns, which alters the numbers slightly. However, Door County’s unemployment rate generally remains steady at 4.5 percent for April, as it did during each of the last three years, according to historical DWD data.
By comparison, the April unemployment rate was 14.1 percent for Wisconsin as a whole, and 14.7 percent for the country. In March, when the timing of the monthly survey predated COVID-19 effects, the unemployment rates were 4.4 percent for the U.S., 3.4 percent in Wisconsin and 5.1 percent for Door County.
Steve Jenkins, executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC), said the additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits provided by the federal government on top of a state’s standard unemployment payout are thwarting attempts by local employers to refill positions.
“We’re hearing that some employers are having difficulty trying to call workers back because they’re earning more on unemployment than they would if they were paid.”Steve Jenkins, Executive Director, Door County Economic Development Corporation
Those extra payments are set to expire at the end of July if Congress doesn’t extend them with another stimulus package.
Job regrowth in Door County will not rely on the manufacturing sector, which Jenkins said has remained relatively stable throughout the pandemic. The hospitality industry stands to regain the most jobs, and many within that sector are cautiously and gradually increasing their workforce, Jenkins said. With no playbook available for economic recovery during a global pandemic, he said the silver lining comes if the lessons we’ve learned take root.
“This pandemic has shone a bright light on vulnerabilities and weaknesses that we have on many levels, whether health care or the economy,” Jenkins said, “but we have to learn from this or we’ll be prone to this again.”
One vulnerability that the pandemic has highlighted was the reliance of local businesses on seasonal, J-1 Visa workers, who may not be able to travel to the U.S. this season from overseas. DCEDC is helping these employers by connecting them with high school juniors and seniors who want summer employment.