Wisconsin's unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.7% in October, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that the state Department of Workforce Development released Thursday, Nov. 19.

The uptick comes after five straight months of improvement to the state's jobless numbers, and marks the first time since April that the unemployment rate has gotten worse.

Wisconsin's unemployment picture remains better than the nation's as a whole, with the U.S. seeing a 6.9% unemployment rate in October. But Wisconsin still has considerable ground to make up before it gets back to pre-pandemic levels of employment, and Thursday's numbers mean the state has backtracked on the progress made over the last several months.

When job losses were at their peak in April, Wisconsin saw its unemployment rate skyrocket to 13.6%, the highest ever recorded in the state. Wisconsin women bore the brunt of those initial job losses.

In April, the state lost more than 439,000 jobs in a single month, a number nearly equal to the entire population of Waukesha County combined with the city of West Bend. The state had strong job growth in May and June, regaining about 41% of the jobs lost in April, but over the next three months the pace of hiring slowed.

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That positive hiring trend reversed itself in October, with the state losing a total of 14,700 jobs — the first time Wisconsin has lost more jobs than it gained since April. The new figures mean Wisconsin still hasn't recovered more than 42% of the jobs it lost in April.

Because unemployment numbers are reported with a month-long lag, initial weekly applications for unemployment assistance are seen as a more current indicator of what's happening in the labor force.

Across three different unemployment programs, just under 20,000 initial applications for assistance were submitted during the week that ended Nov. 14. That number has remained relatively flat compared to the two weeks prior, although unemployment claims do typically tick up in the winter months, corresponding with seasonal construction and tourism layoffs.

Editor's note: This story will be updated.

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