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The City of Racine is no longer at top of the list when it comes to unemployment rate and Beloit now tops the list.

However, Racine is also losing its labor force and a significant number of people in Racine do not having their GED or a high school diploma.

According to the Department of Workforce Development, the percentage of people claiming unemployment benefits in the city in March dropped from 5.7 percent in 2016 to 4.5 percent. That’s a significant drop compared to the 15.2 percent unemployment rate in 2011. To put things in perspective though, the city’s labor force stood at 38,131 people in 2011. Now that number has decreased by 2,319 people, or just over 6 percent.

“You always have a fluctuation in labor force with retirements, companies leaving and people leaving the city,” said Mayor John Dickert.

Still, the City of Racine saw its unemployment rate drop by 1.2 percent, the largest drop in unemployment in the state from March 2017 compared to March 2016. The state unemployment rate, which was seasonally adjusted, is 3.4 percent in March 207.

There’s still more work to be done, which is one of the reasons why Racine Mayor John Dickert is in Washington D.C. as federal funds for several entitlement programs are in jeopardy, he said.

Unemployment Rate Drops In Wisconsin, Racine

Statewide, the labor force participation rate increased to 68.4 percent, which is outpacing the U.S. rate of 63 percent in March.

The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is either employed or unemployed (that is, either working or actively seeking work).

“Wisconsin is working,” according to a statement by Gov. Scott Walker. “In fact, our labor force participation rate improved as well, rising to 68.4 percent – beating the national rate by 5.4 percent! We’re ranked in the top ten states for percentage of people in our workforce and number of manufacturing jobs since we took office.”

But Racine residents still have employment challenges.

Over 21 percent of population in the City of Racine is living in poverty, 9,000 residents 25 years and older living in the City of Racine don’t have high school diploma or GED, and the per capita income in the city was less than $21,000 in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Dickert said that’s why he’s been pushing hard to get an arena, hotel and convention center built.

“We have a large percentage of people that are unemployed that don’t have a GED or high school diploma,” he said. “That’s why we’re fighting for this project because we have a lot of unskilled people and those jobs are desperately needed.”

Lobbying for Safety Net Programs

Dickert is in Washington D.C. lobbying to preserve funding for federal several programs, including dollars from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which President Donald Trump has eliminated in his proposed budget.

“We’re looking at losing all of it… $2.1 million and that goes to fund a lot of our safety net programming from helping people who are homelessness to funding first time home buying to job training,” he said. “That’s all matching funds. No one gets their whole budget funded, but that’s the safety net for a lot of people.”

Dickert met with staff from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of confusion with regards to the President introducing his budget,” Dickert said. “I am told that Congress is introducing theirs too. And the Senate might introduce their own as well. Every office is packed on the Hill.”

Dickert Concerned About Entitlement Funding

The U.S. Congress took steps to extend until May 5 the deadline for reaching a deal on federal spending through September and head off a feared government shutdown at midnight on Friday, according to a story by Reuters.

Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday to fund government operations at current levels for one more week, giving them more time to finish negotiations with Democrats on a spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

The legislation was likely to be voted on by the House of Representatives and Senate on Friday, meaning that if it passes, it would have to be rushed to President Donald Trump to sign into law promptly.

Without this extension or a longer-term funding bill, federal agencies will run out of money by midnight Friday, likely triggering abrupt layoffs of hundreds of thousands of federal government workers until funding resumes.

The last government shutdown, in 2013, lasted for 17 days, and many lawmakers were nervous about the prospect of another.

“I’m confident we will be able to pass a short-term extension” of funding for programs for the fiscal year that began nearly seven months ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.