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Familiar image emerges in Wisconsin labor market

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One year has made a big difference in the Wisconsin job market. Unemployment rate? It went from 3.2% in March 2020 to 14.8% in April and was still at 10.4% in May. In July 2020, unemployment …


One year has made a big difference in the Wisconsin job market. Unemployment rate? It went from 3.2% in March 2020 to 14.8% in April and was still at 10.4% in May.

In July 2020, the unemployment rate was 7.2% and the total labor force was down 1.5% from the previous year. Although things have improved since the spring, the jobs situation was very different from what it was before the pandemic.

Fast forward to now and the picture coming from the labor market shares a lot of similarities with its pre-pandemic counterpart. The state’s unemployment rate for May, the most recent data, was 3.9% compared to 3.3% in May 2019. Labor force participation has increased in recent months, reaching 66.1% in May versus 66.8% in May 2019. The total labor force is still around 8,000 people smaller than it was in 2019.

There is still work to be done on the government employment front. The private sector wage bill is down by around 100,000 from before the pandemic, although this is a dramatic improvement from the drop of 300,000 in May 2020.

More than half of the remaining decline came from the leisure and hospitality sector, where employment in accommodation and food services was down 38,000 from May 2019, a drop of 16%, and employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation was down 12,000 or 28%.

Employment in durable goods manufacturing is down over 16,000, or 5.6%, from May 2019, while employment in non-durable goods is actually up over 5,000 , or nearly 2.8%.

With the return of the labor market to pre-pandemic conditionsHowever, many employers once again deplore the difficulties they experience in filling vacant positions. Many have pointed to the additional $ 300 in weekly unemployment benefits added during the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor in keeping workers on the sidelines. Wisconsin lawmakers voted to end the enhanced benefit earlier this year, but Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the measure, arguing that there was a lack of evidence to suggest removing the benefit would attract them. people in the workforce.

“Removing this lifeline for many Wisconsinites will cause continued economic hardship for those most affected by the pandemic and create additional barriers for individuals to return to family support jobs,” said Evers in his veto message.

Ryan Festerling, chairman of Brookfield-based recruiting firm QPS Employment Group, said the advantage was likely to keep some people on the sidelines, but added his company had not seen a dramatic increase in numbers. of applicants in states that have terminated the benefit.

“I would love to tell you that it’s that big switch that all of a sudden the candidates came out of the woods. This is simply not the case, ”he said.

In a survey of its members released in June, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce found that 85% of those surveyed were in favor of ending the Enhanced Benefit. The survey also found that 86% had difficulty hiring, but among this group, 35% blamed the improved benefits while 30% pointed to a lack of qualified candidates and 26% cited a general lack of people.

The challenges of hiring don’t seem to be dissipating anytime soon. ManpowerGroup found a clear employment outlook, which subtracts the percentage of companies planning to downsize from the percentage planning to add, of 40% before the third quarter for the Milwaukee metro. It was the highest reading to date for the region and among the top 15 prospects in the country. The previous record was 33% heading into the third quarters of 2018 and 2019.

The competitive job market means that employers will have to work hard to achieve these visions of increased hiring. Festerling outlined several strategies that businesses can consider.

For starters, he said companies shouldn’t expect higher pay rates alone to bring in new employees.

“We certainly see that the rates of pay are useful, but I don’t think even some of our top paying employers are sitting in the catbird seat saying ‘we’re good’. They also have openings, ”Festerling said, noting that some companies decide to implement an increase only to find that the market has continued to rise as they make the change. “We have to make sure that we don’t view it as the thing to fix it, because it just isn’t.”

Festerling said companies should look inside their own organization, identify what is working, develop and emulate those actions. This could mean studying the turnover of new hires at a very detailed level or examining the impact of remote working or planning on the corporate culture.

“A lot of this will be about engaging supervisors, a lot of going to do things that are a little unconventional,” said Festerling.

“If the human side of your equation is actually keeping you from reaching your numbers… what if we start from a work perspective and say what’s the best planning we can do for our people? ” he added.

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