Center for American Progress Action

CAP Action Memo: Wisconsin Unemployment Rate Explodes From 3.5% in February to 12% in May. 224,000 Could Lose Health Coverage
Press Release

CAP Action Memo: Wisconsin Unemployment Rate Explodes From 3.5% in February to 12% in May. 224,000 Could Lose Health Coverage

Washington, D.C. — Today, President Donald Trump will deliver remarks at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin and pretape a town hall event with Fox News host Sean Hannity that is slated to air in prime time. President Trump is likely to address a number of topics while in Wisconsin, including police reform and manufacturing. He will almost certainly try to highlight his administration’s economic record, even as the unemployment rate in Wisconsin has skyrocketed from 3.5 percent in February to 12 percent in May and a new report shows that 224,000 people could lose their health coverage during the pandemic if the Trump-backed Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal lawsuit is successful. The president may boast that the Fincantieri Marinette Marine was awarded an $800 million contract with the U.S. Navy to build new missile technology, which was expected to add about 1,000 jobs to the local economy. This, however, is overshadowed by the nearly 401,000 jobs lost in the state since February as a result of the Trump administration’s failed response to the coronavirus crisis.

According to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the United States is officially experiencing the worst recession in nearly 100 years, brought about by the COVID-19 crisis. Experts predict the recession could last for years and that it can largely be attributed to the Trump administration acting too slowly to contain the spread of the disease, failing to implement widespread testing, and refusing to take action to curb mass layoffs. 

In 2016, President Trump promised that he would bring jobs to Wisconsin, saying, “We’re gonna bring jobs back. You’re gonna have your pick of jobs.” Time and again, he has touted what he calls “record-low” unemployment rates for African American and Latino communities—which were already on a downward trajectory under the Obama administration—but both have seen tremendous spikes nationally. There also remains a deep disparity in the unemployment gap for communities of color that the Trump administration has failed to address. While the unemployment rate for white Americans dropped by nearly 2 percent in May to a still-astronomical 12.4 percent, Black unemployment actually rose slightly to 16.8 percent over the same time period, and Latino unemployment remains the highest for any racial or ethnic group at 17.6 percent

In previous visits to Wisconsin, President Trump made sweeping promises to working families on kitchen-table issues such as health care and the economy, but in reality, his administration has led the country and Wisconsinites into a deep recession. President Trump’s failed trade-war-by-Twitter devastated Wisconsin farmers and, according to Trump’s former national security adviser, contributed to the Trump administration’s catastrophically delayed response to the coronavirus.

Learn more about how the Trump administration’s policies and broken promises have hurt Wisconsin families below.

Health care

Promise: “[W]e can…save health care for every family in Wisconsin and for every family in our country.” – Donald Trump in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, November 1, 2016

Reality: The Trump administration has doubled down on its commitment to taking health care away from millions of Americans by backing a lawsuit to repeal the ACA while offering no viable replacement plan. Below are several ways Wisconsinites would be harmed if the administration succeeds in fully repealing the ACA:

Profits and wages 

Promise: “I’m so good at business. Oh, you people are gonna be so rich so fast. You don’t even—you don’t know how rich you’re gonna be.” – Donald Trump in Rothschild, Wisconsin, April 2, 2016  

Reality: Trump promised voters that he would prioritize the interests of the middle class. Instead, his administration is rewriting the rules to reward corporate interests and making it harder for working Americans to get ahead: 

  • The Trump-appointed director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed rolling back restrictions on predatory payday lenders that require them to ensure borrowers can repay loans.
  • The Trump administration abandoned a rule designed to ensure that middle-class workers are properly compensated for working overtime, lowering the Obama-era income threshold so that fewer workers are covered. Under the Trump administration’s proposed threshold, 120,000 Wisconsinites would lose overtime protections, costing them a projected $19 million in lost wages each year.
  • Trump’s Department of Labor weakened rules that required financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients. Now, sophisticated investment advisers can effectively exploit consumers by offering conflicted financial advice, costing Wisconsin retirement savers an estimated $449 million per year.


Promise: “I am going to give a massive tax cut to every worker and small business in this country.” – Donald Trump in West Bend, Wisconsin, August 17, 2016

Reality: The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) gave significantly larger tax cuts to the wealthy than to low- and middle-income workers. In fact, 330,000 Wisconsin households either received no tax cut or experienced a tax increase after the law’s passage. In contrast, the Wisconsin-based corporation WEC Energy Group and 60 other Fortune 500 companies paid zero in federal income taxes in 2018. Instead of spending this windfall on improving workers’ wages or on capital investment—as the tax bill’s supporters claimed they would—these companies spent billions on stock buybacks to enrich executives and shareholders. Annual U.S. stock buybacks hit a record high in 2018 following the TCJA’s corporate tax breaks. The tax bill’s provisions for workers and families expire over time, while the benefits for corporations were made permanent.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Freedom Alexander Murphy at [email protected].