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While the unemployment picture throughout the state and eastern Racine County certainly looks rosier than it did a year ago, the recently released statistics from the state only tell part of the story.

Unemployment in Wisconsin fell year-over-year; from 6.4 to 5.2 percent. The national average is higher, at 5.8 percent for the same time period of November 2013 to November 2014.

Here in Racine County, unemployment was also down; from 7.8 to 6 percent. The City of Racine remains at the top of the list of cities with 8.4 percent, but that is also down from 11.4 percent at this same time last year.

Janelle Thornton told Racine County Eye that the numbers are not in her favor.

“After four years, I’ve stopped looking for work,” she said. “Honestly, I’m considering moving out of state. There are lots of great opportunities elsewhere.”

Susan Pierson, 50, worked for Wheaton Franciscan when back surgery ended her cleaning job there two years ago and required about a year for recovery. For almost the past year she has been working part-time and was averaging close to 40 hours a week in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

But, with the holiday shopping season over, her hours have been drastically reduced.

“(My hours) have been cut to nine,” she said. “I could barely make rent at 40 hours, what do they expect me to do with nine?”

Pierson’s situation is further complicated by not having a car. She either takes the bus or catches a ride with one of her kids if they’re available.

Mary Petrowski, also 50, is an experienced CNC operator who said Racine companies complain about not being able to find skilled workers but then don’t pay commensurate wages.

“(I’ve worked) CNC for over 20 years and walked out of a few low-paying jobs here in town,” she said. “(I went) back to Milwaukee (for work), and I am currently working.”

Tracy Lotspaih Ramsey noted the lack of information in the state’s report regarding those who are no longer eligible for benefits, are underemployed, or, like Thornton, have stopped looking.

“It really upsets me when they say the unemployment numbers are dropping. Of course they are if they don’t include those that ran out of benefits,” she stated. “It appears that those people found jobs, but in reality most people haven’t and they are in a worse situation now.”

Unemployment also fell in Caledonia and Mount Pleasant as well; from 3.2 to 2.7 percent and from 8.6 to 6.7 percent, respectively. The state does not have statistics for Sturtevant.

Other numbers included the state’s report include:

  • The number of new businesses went up 5.1 percent year-over-year;
  • Initial unemployment claims in the first 50 weeks of 2014 dropped to the lowest numbers since 1999;
  • Agricultural exports were up 17 percent, putting Wisconsin 12th in the country;
  • Wisconsin ranked first in the Midwest and 9th in the country for private sector growth; and
  • An additional 16,500 private-sector jobs means the state looks to have recovered all jobs lost during the recession.

Racine County Eye has requested the information referenced by Ramsey, and we will update this story if those numbers are available.