Employment outlook: Mixed messages – Mid-year economic review

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Depending on the industry and the location, southeastern Wisconsin’s employment outlook could be on the mend or waning, according to a quarterly poll conducted by Manpower International.
The Employment Outlook Survey indicates that almost as many (21%) employers plan staffing additions as reductions (19%) with 60% reporting no intention of changing in the Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Washington county areas. Milwaukee metropolitan area employers are slightly more optimistic; 25% plan increases, 16% plan decreases while 58% expect no change.
Within the three-county area, the construction and transportation-public utilities industries expect new employment opportunities. Cuts should be coming in the education and public administration areas while durable and non-durable goods manufacturers, wholesale and retail merchants, and services employers gave mixed signals on the survey.
"The first half of the year’s been relatively flat, but we are expecting a moderate increase in the employment numbers in Milwaukee over the last six months of the year," Bob Johnston, district manager of Kelly Services, said. "We’re talking to quite a few companies that expect a pickup in the August, September and October time frame, specifically in manufacturing."
The reason for increased demand for labor?
"They’re starting to hear whispers of orders on the horizon that are coming back," Johnston said of area manufacturers that contract with Kelly.
Nationally, orders for durable goods rose by .6% in May following a .4% increase in April, although businesses are still holding back on big investments such as building new plants or buying new equipment in light of the sputtering economic recovery. Another worry concerning the recovery, according to the Associated Press, is that consumer demand may decrease after the consumer sector kept buying in an effort to revive the economy during the earlier stages of the downturn.
Waukesha County is the most optimistic for job increases in the third quarter with 37% of surveyed employers planning increases and only 7% planning reductions. Construction, durable and non-durable goods manufacturing and wholesale and retail merchants are planning additions while service employers are split over additions and reductions in the county.
Other areas showing significant job additions are Walworth and Kenosha counties. Both counties show employment increases of 30% and reductions of 3%.
As for recent college graduates still looking for their first jobs, experts advise using temporary services to develop skills and gain experience while looking for their ideal jobs.
"Another good thing about working with a staffing agency like ours is that it’s a really great way for college grads to get their foot in the door at a company," Margaret Gerstenkorn, a spokesman for Milwaukee-based Manpower International, said. "It might not be the job that they want, but at least it gives them the opportunity to get in somewhere working and making a good impression. That way, when an entry level job opens up, maybe they’ll be the first to be considered."
The benefit to employers is obvious to industry observers.
"Companies can be much more selective than they became accustomed to in the late ’90s and early 2000s," Johnston said.

July 5, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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