Metro Milwaukee employers less optimistic on hiring heading into 2020

Net employment outlook of 16% is down from 24% a year ago

The majority of metro Milwaukee employers surveyed by ManpowerGroup expect to maintain their current staffing levels heading into 2020, but the percentage planning to grow staff decreased from the same time last year.

Heading into the first quarter of 2020, 23% of employers in the metro area, which includes Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, plan to increase staff. Last year, heading into 2019, 28% of employers were planning to increase staff.

The percentage expecting to decrease staff was also up slightly, from 4% to 7%.

The shifts add up to a drop in Milwaukee’s net employment outlook from 24% to 16% over the last year. The NEO measure subtracts those planning to decrease from the percentage planning to increase staff.

Heading into the fourth quarter of 2019, Milwaukee had a net employment outlook of 21%.

The stronger hiring outlook does not necessarily translate into robust job growth. Metro Milwaukee averaged year-over-year job from of 0.09% in the first quarter of 2019.

Employers have been confronting challenging hiring conditions in recent years with unemployment at or near record lows. In the first quarter of 2019, metro Milwaukee averaged a monthly unemployment rate 3.3%, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Metro Milwaukee employers, however, are less optimistic heading into 2020 than Wisconsin as a whole. The state had a 22% net employment outlook heading into the upcoming quarter with 28% of employers expecting to add staff.

Madison, in particular, had a strong outlook with 32% of employers planning to increase staff and a net outlook of 27%. The area tied for the eighth strongest outlook nationally.

Milwaukee tied for the 65th strongest outlook among the 100 largest metro areas, ahead of Chicago at 14% but behind Minneapolis-St. Paul at 20%.

In Milwaukee, ManpowerGroup said employment prospects are best in construction, durable and nondurable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, information, financial activities, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality.

Education and health services was the only sector where employers expect to decrease payrolls locally, according to ManpowerGroup.

Get our email updates

Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.