Wisconsin Manufacturing Wages Declining

But Magnitude of the Decline Varies by Wisconsin Metro Area

Labor Day is a good time to focus on the state of economic opportunity in Wisconsin. Although the number of jobs usually grabs the headline, declining wages is a major issue that must be addressed.

While more attention has been paid to impact of rigged global trade and state economic development programs on outsourcing Wisconsin jobs, an equally important impact is the driving down the wages of jobs that remain in Wisconsin.

When Wisconsin workers are forced to compete with low wage countries, even when the jobs stay here real wages decline.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin looked at the latest federal data, and found a startling decline in manufacturing wages. As you can see in this chart, real wages (adjusted for inflation) are going down for manufacturing workers in every Wisconsin metro area.

Annual Average Wages for Manufacturing/Production Workers in Major Wisconsin Metropolitan Areas, in 2015 dollars




Change since 2015

Wisconsin, Statewide








Eau Claire




Fond du Lac




Green Bay








La Crosse-Onalaska








Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis




















(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Metropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, U.S. Department of Labor, inflation adjusted annual wages in 2015 dollars)

Declining wages may be good for multinational corporations who have no loyalty to any country, but it is disaster for Wisconsin’s economy. Declining wages damage small business when working families have fewer dollars to spend in their local communities. That means less is spent at the local grocery store, super club, coffee shop, and dry cleaner. The result is less employment, and a further drag on local economies.

This data also directly challenges Governor Walker’s claim that a co-called “skills gap” is the cause of Wisconsin’s economic woes. If manufacturers were really having problems finding skilled manufacturing workers, they would be raising wages, not lowering them.

The decline is further proof we need to stop rigging the economy by scrapping bad trade deals which stack the deck against workers and economic development policies that actually reward companies engaged in outsourcing and lowering the wages of their workers. Wisconsin needs bold new strategies to re-rig the economy in favor of workers.

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