Manufacturers see slow growth in sales, wages, survey says

Sales up, but only in single digits for many Milwaukee area manufacturers

More than 70 percent of manufacturers that took part in a recent Milwaukee area survey reported single digit sales increases over last year. A much smaller amount, about eight percent, report sales increases between 12 and 35 percent.

Nineteen percent reported flat sales, while eight percent reported lower sales levels this year.

The survey of roughly 100 executives of Milwaukee-area manufacturers was conducted by The Paranet Group Inc., a Brookfield-based professional development organization for manufacturing managers.

“In general, manufacturers believe sales are trending up, though slowly,” said Linda Kiedrowski, CEO of The Paranet Group. “Paranet members are skittish about forecasting. The economy feels soft. There appears to be more hope than confidence that sales will increase.”

Paranet members in the automotive, medical and electronic sectors report increased sales, while construction-related manufacturers continue to see soft sales. Some members report that recent sales increases are part of inventory replenishing, not a true economic recovery.

As a result, a large number of survey respondents are not forecasting significant wage increases this year. Roughly 38 percent of those surveyed are planning wage increases this year, most in the three percent range. Another 20 percent plan to reinstate wages that were cut in 2009.

However, another 36 percent plan to keep wages at the same level they were last year.

“Very few people mentioned hiring hourly employees and those that did said it will be with extreme caution,” Kiedrowski said. “Lots of ground was lost in 2008 and 2009. The consensus is it will be a while before manufacturing rebounds solidly. It appears stimulus money hasn’t helped most manufacturing sectors.”


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