By the end of last week Wisconsin employers had already notified the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) of 3,543 planned layoffs, putting the state on pace to eclipse 10,000 in 2015.Since there are so many layoffs going on, you'd think that would translate into sizable unemployment claims, even in light of the rest of the country having the lowest number of new claims in 15 years. But that's not the case, as Wisconsin claims also continue to go down in 2015.
That would be the highest number of layoffs announced in Wisconsin since 2011, when Gov. Scott Walker first took office. The total number of layoff notifications topped 9,000 that year.
By comparison, employers notified the state of 6,511 layoffs in 2012, 7,029 in 2013 and just 6,186 layoffs in 2014. The state records the notifications on the date when they are informed about the layoffs, which can then sometimes take effect over the course of a year or several years afterwards.
Many of the 2015 layoffs will impact hundreds of employees here in South Central Wisconsin. Last week alone, 93 employees at the Eaton Corp. plant in Watertown and 119 workers at McCain Foods in Fort Atkinson were told they will be out of a job by the end of the year.
So what's going on here? Is it because the WKOW story is based on WARN notices, with the actual closings and new claims not coming till later? Is it because small businesses are becoming more successful in Wisconsin, and therefore not laying off as many people? Or is it related to this, which we found out about last December?
A new state report says state Department of Workforce Development call centers blocked almost 1.7 million calls from people looking to claim unemployment benefits in the year that ended June 30.The DWD has claimed this "blocked calls" issue has been fixed, but something's not adding up between the large amount of layoffs and small amount of unemployment claims. And given this administration's habit of hiding bad information as long as possible (note that we haven't seen the March revenue numbers yet), would you be surprised if the problem was still going on?
The Legislative Audit Bureau issued findings Tuesday showing that DWD placed people in hold queue when call center staff were busy. If more calls were received than the queue would hold, the callers were told to call again later. The findings indicated that the vast majority of blocked calls were made between December 2013 and January 2014.
DWD officials say claims typically spike in winter in cold-weather states such as Wisconsin and the number of calls blocked isn't an indication of the actual number of callers, saying the same callers often call back multiple times.
Let's see how this plays out in the next couple of months.