More workers are returning to the labor force in Wisconsin as the state continues to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wisconsin added more than 10,000 non-farm jobs last month. That includes more than 8,000 jobs added to the private sector, according to new data from the state Department of Workforce Development released Thursday. The labor force participation rate is hovering around 66 percent, which is almost where it was before the onset of the pandemic last year.

Menzie Chinn, an economics professor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in an email that while there is much demand for workers, supply remains constrained.

“Rising wages are not a ‘bad’, since that’s how the market adjusts to market conditions,” said Chinn. “There’s not a ‘shortage’ as the business community keeps on complaining about.”

WPR previously reported the tight labor market in Wisconsin dates back to before the COVID-19 pandemic, even as additional unemployment payments continue to face criticism.

Steve Deller, an applied economics professor at UW-Madison, said increased wages and benefits are one way companies are trying to be creative in the current labor market.

“Five years ago or so, people would think that a $15-an-hour job is a good paying job,” said Deller. “People are coming to the realization that’s not a good paying job. It’s got to be more than that. And businesses are coming around and saying, ‘If I want quality workers, I’ve got to up my pay.'”

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