RELEASE: New CAP Action Research Shows How Trump Has Undermined the Economy for Working-Class Wisconsinites

Washington, D.C. — In the run-up to the 2016 election, then-candidate Donald Trump visited Wisconsin nine times to promise he could revitalize the economic fortunes of working-class Wisconsinites. But as a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress Action Fund shows, nearly three years after Trump’s inauguration, the administration has not helped working-class Wisconsinites. In fact, Trump’s policies—from an erratic trade war to a tax bill that has largely benefited corporations and wealthy—have only exacerbated economic issues in Wisconsin.

In addition to looking at statewide economic trends, CAP Action’s research examines the economic situation in three Wisconsin metropolitan statistical areas that favored Barack Obama in the 2012 election and Trump in 2016 that have been faring particularly poorly since Trump entered the White House: Eau Claire, Racine, and Oshkosh-Neenah.

  • Eau Claire: The monthly change in the Eau Claire metropolitan area’s unemployment rate stopped decreasing in March 2019, became positive in June 2019, and has been increasing ever since. In December 2019, the last month for which data are available, the unemployment rate stood at 3.5 percent—up 0.8 percentage points from the yearly low of 2.7 percent and the highest it’s been since 2016. Ten mass layoffs have occurred in the Eau Claire area since the Trump administration initiated the trade war, affecting at least 410 workers.
  • Racine: After a decline in the unemployment rate that had lasted for years—a trend that long preceded the 2016 election— Racine has more recently seen a significant upswing in the unemployment rate since the second quarter of 2019. In December 2019, the unemployment rate sat at 4.3 percent—1 full percentage point higher than the low of 3.3 percent experienced in April 2019. Since the trade war started, 10 mass layoffs have occurred in the metropolitan area, affecting at least 452 workers.
  • Oshkosh-Neenah: The area saw an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent in December 2019—a 0.6 percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate compared with the low of 2.5 percent reached in June 2019. Oshkosh-Neenah has also been severely affected by the Trump administration’s trade policies, with six mass layoffs affecting at least 257 workers in the metropolitan area since the beginning of 2017.

“Trump said that he would be the ‘greatest jobs president that God ever created,’ but as with so many of his other claims, the reality hasn’t lived up to the promise,” said Ryan Zamarripa, associate director of Economic Policy at CAP Action and author of the analysis. “The Trump administration’s chaotic and disastrous trade policies have been inflicting intense economic pain on states such as Wisconsin, whose economies rely on industries such as manufacturing and agriculture. From mass layoffs to rising unemployment and farm closures, it’s clear that Trump has failed working Wisconsinites. The fact that we could be on the precipice of a global pandemic only compounds Trump’s economic mess.”

Across the state, the top-line economic numbers further reveal the impact of Trump’s disastrous leadership:

  • Wisconsin added 136,200 jobs under President Obama’s second term, but under Trump’s presidency so far, that figure is only 57,500.
  • In the two years since the Trump administration’s trade war began, Wisconsin added 25,200 jobs—less than half as many as in the two preceding years. Under Obama’s second term, Wisconsin experienced a 5.71 percent increase in job growth, but so far under Trump’s presidency, that figure stands at just 2.27 percent, with significant deceleration starting soon after the trade war began.
  • Wisconsin’s overall seasonally adjusted unemployment rate had been steadily decreasing for the four years prior to Trump’s election and continued to do so until almost immediately after the trade war began. But now, the rate sits at a nearly three-year high of 3.4 percent—0.6 percentage points higher than it was just in the middle of 2019.
  • In the 24 months leading up to the start of the trade war, 15,154 workers were affected by mass layoffs in Wisconsin. In the 24 months following, that number jumped to 18,949 workers—a 25 percent increase.
  • Finally, while estimating the costs of tariffs to consumers is difficult, one study suggests that the average family paid an additional $1,315 in 2019 alone—all thanks to Trump’s mishandling of the economy.

CAP Action’s research was released earlier today on a news conference call with Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler, state Sen. Jeff Smith (D) of Eau Claire, and state Rep. Amanda Stuck (D) of Appleton.

“Trump said he’d get tough on China, but the only people he’s been tough on and hurting with his erratic trade wars and thoughtless policy decisions are our farmers and our hardworking families. Ten percent of Wisconsin dairy farms closed their doors forever last year, crop farmers are facing similar struggles as the markets that took decades to build have been destroyed by Trump, and the everyday family paid an extra $1,300 out of pocket last year because of the trade war,” said Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. “Not only has Trump failed to deliver on his promises to lower costs, he is continuing to try to dismantle the ACA and strip away protections for people with preexisting conditions. Wisconsinites deserve better.”

“In Western Wisconsin, the losses suffered by agriculture because of the Trump trade war have been dramatic. Much of our farm industry was heavily into trade in the Asian markets, and most of that was lost with expectations they will never get it back,” said Sen. Smith.

Click here to read: “How Trump Has Undermined the Economy for Wisconsinites Who Helped Deliver Him the Presidency” by Ryan Zamarripa.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at or 202-478-6331.