State economist discusses 2021 job outlook

EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) – After a year that began with some of the lowest unemployment numbers to the highest since the Great Depression, what does the job market look like in 2021?

An economist with the Wisconsin Workforce Development, Scott Hodek, said the pandemic accelerated trends that existed before it began. Working from home already existed as an option for some, but now is widely used throughout the workforce. Another accelerated trend is automation, he said, explaining that already vulnerable jobs rapidly declined in favor of robotic machinery, because of course, robots can’t spread the coronavirus.

“What’s happening with this pandemic is not a long-term trend and isn’t based on any structural changes within industries, it’s just a shock type event,” Hodek said.

He said industries like construction are always in need of skilled labor, and that it is one industry that saw virtually no layoffs in 2020 because the demand for employees has been greater than the supply of them.

As baby boomers reach retirement age, Hodek said most job fields are in need of workers to replace them, especially health care and education, which are seeing a higher rate of workers retiring and a need for new hires.

As far as college goes, Hodek said it is not necessarily top priority for someone to go for a Bachelors degree right after high school, but it is important for some sort of post-secondary education, be it an apprenticeship, certificate program, or associates degree, with so many jobs today requiring more skill and education than in years past.

As vaccines have been administered and more safety protocol has been put in place at many businesses, people have largely returned to work, slowly but surely lowering the unemployment rate once more, with the unemployment rate in Wisconsin being 5.5% in December 2020. At it’s peak, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin reached 13.6% in April 2020.

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