Milwaukee hiring outlook lowest since start of 2017 in ManpowerGroup survey

State outlook boosted by optimism in Madison

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A drop in the number of firms planning to add employees and a slight increase in the number planning to cut staff heading into the second quarter led to the lowest employment outlook for metro Milwaukee since the start of 2017, according to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey.

The net outlook is based on subtracting the percentage of survey respondents expecting to cut staff from the number expecting to increase. For the Milwaukee region, 22 percent of respondents are expecting a staffing increase while 6 percent expect to cut. The net employment outlook of 16 percent tied for the third lowest since the start of 2014.

Still, Manpower spokesperson Amber Laurent said in a release that employers are anticipating a “stable hiring pace” compared to the first quarter of the year when 28 percent of respondents expected to add staff and 4 percent expected to cut jobs.

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Last year at this time, 28 percent of respondents in the region expected to increase staff and just 2 percent planned to cut. The survey is subject to some relatively large jumps from quarter to quarter. Last year, for example, the third quarter outlook jumped to 33 percent before dipping to 17 percent in the fourth quarter.

Job prospects are best in construction, durable and nondurable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, wholesale and retail trade, financial activities and professional and business services, according to Manpower. Education and health services, leisure and hospitality and government hiring expectations remained unchanged from the first quarter.

Milwaukee’s employment outlook fell behind the state as a whole, which had an outlook of 22 percent for the current quarter. Heading into the first quarter, the state had an outlook of 23 percent and was at 30 percent at this time last year.

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The state’s outlook was boosted by strong sentiment in the Madison area, which increased its outlook from 21 percent to 31 percent.

In neighboring states, Chicago saw its outlook drop from 17 to 13 percent while Minneapolis-St. Paul jumped from 6 percent to 23 percent.

Year-over-year job growth in metro Milwaukee has not topped 1 percent since the start of the second quarter last year, according to monthly data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly data from the bureau – which is considered more accurate but only runs through the end of September – shows a slightly better picture but still shows job growth slowing.

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Businesses have been dealing with a tight labor market for months. Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has been at or below 3.1 percent since October 2017. In metro Milwaukee, the non-seasonally adjusted rate ranged from 2.7 to 3.9 percent in 2018 and on average was down more than 0.4 percentage points from the same time the year before.

While a tight labor market might have limited the region’s job growth, it appears to have spurred an increase in wages. Since the start of 2016, the year-over-year change in average weekly wages has topped 3 percent in 26 of 37 months with available data.

The run of increasing wages, however, seems to be losing steam. The metro area has averaged a 0.1 percent year-over-year wage increase during from October through January.

Read more economic data reports at the BizTracker page.

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