Uncertainty and optimism in Manpower’s latest employment outlook survey

ManpowerGroup's global headquarters in downtown Milwaukee.

Last updated on June 10th, 2020 at 12:13 pm

When ManpowerGroup surveyed employers in January, just 1% of metro Milwaukee respondents planned to decrease their staffing levels in the second quarter.

Heading into the third quarter, the employment outlook for the region and country has changed dramatically.

Metro Milwaukee’s net employment outlook dropped from 25% for the second quarter to 9% for the third. The NEO is the result of subtracting the percentage of respondents planning to cut jobs from those planning to add staff.

Nationally, the outlook dropped 16 percentage points to 3%. Across Wisconsin, the outlook dropped from 30% to 9% and in Madison the decline was from 35% to 10%.

Wisconsin’s survey results were better than some of its neighbors. Minneapolis-St. Paul went from 22% to 7% while Chicago went from 22% to 1%.

In Milwaukee, the number of respondents planning to increase staffing dropped from 26% to 18%. Last year at this time it was 35%.

Heading into the third quarter, 9% of respondents said they plan to decrease staff, compared to 1% heading into the second quarter and 2% last year.

Perhaps the biggest shift, however, was in the number of respondents who were unsure about their hiring plans. In the last survey, no respondents said they didn’t know whether they would grow, decrease or maintain their staffing. In this survey, 11% said they were unsure about their company’s hiring plans.

Of course, the U.S. labor market is dramatically different from when the last Manpower survey was down. Wisconsin unemployment levels went from near record lows to record highs and millions of people are now unemployed nationally.

Manpower’s survey and other data, however, do show some signs of optimism.

A plurality of more than 5,000 respondents nationally, 42%, said they expect hiring to return to pre-pandemic levels by July. Another 18% said hiring will return to previous levels between July and January, while 7% said January to April and 3% said later than April.

The survey did find 7% of respondents feel hiring will never return to pre-pandemic levels and 23% said they don’t know when it will.

“It is encouraging to see so many employers predict a return to pre-pandemic hiring though we must remember any signs of recovery are fragile,” said Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America. “Now is the time for everyone to join together to rebuild confidence and create opportunities for everyone as America gets safely back to work.”

ManpowerGroup said its real-time data point to a 10% increase in job posting nationwide in the 10 days prior to June 5.

Top in-demand roles in essential industries include drivers, nurses, retail and grocery store workers and supervisors and food prep supervisors.

The most in-demand roles in non-essential industries included software and application developers, customers service representatives, insurance sales agents, office worker supervisors and marketing managers.


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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at 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.

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