by Benjamin Yount
It is a good time to be a worker with in-demand skills in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group, on Monday said its latest Employer Survey shows many businesses across the state plan to raise wages by more than 4% at some point this year.
“Wages are rising much faster than they have in recent memory,” WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer said. “Wisconsin does not have enough people to fill the jobs we have available, and that creates an aggressive competition for talent. We are seeing wages rise at a faster rate, sign-on bonuses, work flexibility and many other strategies from companies to attract and retain talent.”
Last year nearly a quarter of Wisconsin businesses said they were looking to boost wages. In 2019, that number was just 9%.
Bauer told The Center Square that while rising wages are good for workers, there are some worries for businesses and, ultimately, customers across the state.
“The persistent workforce shortage is driving wages up at a faster rate than we have seen in recent memory,” Bauer explained. “While good for workers who are experiencing historic inflation right now, it will unfortunately drive costs up even more in the long run and make Wisconsin businesses less competitive globally.”
Wisconsin has struggled to find enough workers for years. Bauer said he doesn’t expect that to end anytime soon, even with higher wages for workers.
“Wisconsin currently has over 130,000 jobs available but only 90,000 people on unemployment searching for work. There are simply not enough people in the state to fill the jobs open right now,” Bauer added. “Raising wages will certainly help, but Wisconsin must do more to attract and retain workers, while getting more people to come off the sidelines.”
Despite the worries over rising costs and the continued lack of workers, Bauer said the Employer Survey shows signs of hope.
Fifty-three percent of businesses rate Wisconsin’s economy as strong, which is five points lower than the Summer 2021 survey, according to WMC. Nationally, 39% of employers rated the U.S. economy as strong – a drop from 53% six months ago.
When asked how the Wisconsin economy will perform over the next six months, WMC’s survey says 65% expect good or moderate growth while one-third say it will remain flat.
Last summer’s survey, said only 13% said the economy would remain flat and more than eight in 10 businesses expected good or moderate growth.
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Benjamin Yount contributes to The Center Square.
Photo “Wisconsin project” by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce – Wisconsin’s Chamber.