The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates of unemployment and employment statistics for Wisconsin metropolitan areas, major cities and counties in Wisconsin for September 2021, which includes information on Burnett County’s numbers.

In general, the state saw a slight reduction in unemployment claims and overall numbers, as did Burnett County, which went from 5.0 % in August down to 4.1 % in September.

The rates were not seasonally adjusted, but for a comparison, the September 2020 figures showed Burnett County with a 5.8 % unemployment rate, showing solid local employment gains.

The new figures also raise the county up against statewide numbers, bringing the county up from 63rd to 61st in rankings, just from August.

Burnett County Development Association (BCDA) director Dick Hartmann weighed-in on the numbers and how it might be a foretelling of the future:

“Although most businesses are still shorthanded, especially in the service sector. The rate increase may be a result of a seasonal adjustment,” Hartmann noted. “If you’ve noticed this past summer there was a significant increase in visitors to Burnett County. Sales tax receipts were up by 17% over the previous record period attributing to increased employment in the service industries.”

Several officials have noted the odd situation of increasing demand, combined with a worldwide shortage on specific products and how it combined with shipping issues.  

“Students were still home working, but from my perspective manufacturing was up as well catching up from decreases brought on by the pandemic. This coupled with the fact that the additional amount of unemployment benefits was ending and people were positioning themselves for employment,” Hartmann said, citing added employee demand equals wage increases, nearly across-the-board.

“Also, wages were increasing in attempts to compete for workers. Additionally, some of the businesses that were closed during the height of the pandemic were open and increasing their trade. An example of this were the two tribal casinos in the county.”  

Hartmann also noted some “major capital expenditure by business to upgrade their operations to stay competitive and to accommodate increased trade,” while also looking at increased investments in delivery and pick up of products/food from restaurants as factors that added to the business demands, and hence, the need for more employees.