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Positive Job Growth Expected to Continue, Some in Milwaukee Question Projected Rate

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Business owners are optimistic about the future, according to a new survey by Milwaukee-based Manpower.

The staffing agency says about one in five companies nationwide plan to take on new workers in the first quarter of next year. The employment outlook survey says Milwaukee is among the areas with the strongest prospects. But some are skeptical job growth here will outpace other markets.

The storyline over the past few days has been positive job growth across the country. Businesses added more jobs in 2014 than any other year since 1999. According to Rebekah Kowalski, the trend is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2015, including in Milwaukee. She’s with Workforce Strategy, a division of Manpower.

“Milwaukee has one of the strongest outlooks of any metro area. That means we’re in the top six for job prospects, which is very good news,” Kowalski says.

Kowalski says projected hiring is up 17 points over this time last year, and growth is expected across the board.

“I would say though that there is more focus on roles. So there is increased focus on those skill sets like IT, engineering, skilled trades, sales is very hot right now,” she says.

The increased demand for talent is expected to drive up salaries, because companies were already having trouble finding people to fill those positions, Kowalski say.

While the Manpower Survey puts Milwaukee toward the head of the pack with projected hiring, Marc Levine doesn’t paint as rosy of a picture. He’s a professor of economic development and urban studies at UW-Milwaukee.

“The Manpower Survey really does have to be taken with a grain of salt. It has a somewhat questionable methodology in terms of how it measures employment outlook," Levine says. "It simply asks employers do you expect to hire over the next period of time - three, six, twelve months. But it doesn’t ask how many jobs they’re going to be creating."

Levine says without knowing how many jobs will actually be filled, it’s difficult to compare metro areas and states in terms of their employment outlook.  He believes metro Milwaukee will see job growth similar to recent years.

“Since 2010, Wisconsin has ranked in the bottom third of states, basically ranked anywhere from 35th to 45th depending on the year that you look at it in terms of employment growth. Metro Milwaukee has basically fallen into the same category,” Levine says.

Levine says it doesn’t help that the vast number of jobs created in the Greater Milwaukee area are outside Milwaukee County. Most people looking for work live in Milwaukee’s central city.

Credit Northwestern Mutual

Some are finding positions in construction, including building a new headquarters for Northwestern Mutual. Dan Bukiewicz is president of the Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council. He says the NML building and road construction throughout the region are propelling the industry.

“Coming out of the recessions, what we’re seeing is an increased workload and projects coming from the ground up on a level we haven’t seen in 20 years,” Bukiewicz says.

A job fair will be held this afternoon at Manpower to fill positions on teams working to build the new Sojourner Family Peace Center.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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