(The Center Square) – The latest Marquette Law School Poll says nearly one in 10 people in Wisconsin have lost their job because of the coronavirus. The head of the state's largest business group says it's actually worse than that.
"Starting March 14, there were 51,000 new unemployment claims in our state that week. Last week that number jumped," Scott Manley with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce told Jay Weber on News Talk 1130 WISN on Thursday. "There were 116,000 new unemployment claims. We have never seen claims coming in that quickly in our state."
Manley asserted a University of Wisconsin economist said unemployment in Wisconsin is now 11.3 percent. That is worse than the state has seen in years.
"We topped out in the peak of the Great Recession at 9.3 percent unemployment, Manley said. "The highest level of unemployment that we've ever recorded was in 1982 when we reached 12 percent."
Manley worries that things could get worse.
He said Wisconsin leaders need to think about how much longer they can keep businesses closed to fight the coronavirus.
"I think if we're looking at six weeks, I don't think the economy can survive shutting down that long," Manley said. "We're averaging 18,000 to 20,000 new unemployment claims per day. We can't keep losing workers at that pace for four to six weeks and expect that at some point we're just going to say, 'Okay, let's turn the switch back on.'"
Manley agrees with the idea of people staying at home to flatten the curve of the coronavirus. But he said at some point there has to be a balance with Wisconsin's economic needs.
"It is important to save lives. And I think a lot of the efforts that have been taken on social distancing were painful but necessary," Manley said. "But at some point we have to say, 'Okay, we've got to look at what happens to our state financially. And worry about our financial health as well as our public health.'"