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WMC Economic Outlook Survey: Steady Economic and Job Growth Predicted by State Business Leaders

Continuing Skills Gap Drives Business Support for Immigration Reform
(Madison, WI) Steady statewide economic growth through the end of the year should lead to more hiring, according to a survey of state business leaders conducted by the state chamber of commerce. But business leaders continue to see the skills gap as a barrier to hiring and a majority support federal immigration reform as one possible solution.
Seventy-one percent of the 261 business executives who completed the semi-annual survey say Wisconsin’s economy will see moderate growth in the next six months, while 22 percent say that growth will be flat. That is an improvement from January when 65 percent of respondents believed the economy would grow moderately versus 31 percent who predicted no growth.
Similarly, the percentage of executives who plan to hire by the end of the year grew to 56 percent, up from 44 percent in January.
Business leaders are a little more pessimistic about national trends with 53 percent saying the U.S. economy will see moderate growth between July and December, while 42 percent say growth will be flat.
“A combination of an improving economy and the enactment of needed pro-growth reforms have created optimism among the state’s business community.” said Kurt R. Bauer, president/CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), which conducted the survey last month. “Not only are more employers planning to hire in the second half of the year, but an incredible 96 percent believe the state is headed in the right direction and 90 percent say state government is either very or somewhat pro-business.”
When asked what one thing state government can do to improve Wisconsin’s business climate 35 percent said reduce taxes, 15 percent said become a Right to Work state and 14 percent said reform employment laws, like harmonizing the state and federal versions of family medical leave.
Fifty-three percent of business executives said they are having trouble finding workers, down from 60 percent six months ago. Of that 53 percent, 72 percent blamed a lack of qualified workers, followed by a poor work ethic (20 percent), generous entitlement programs (16 percent) and substance abuse (11 percent).
Sixty-one percent said they have increased salaries to attract and/or retain workers. Sixty-three percent said they support federal immigration reform that would allow more foreign workers of all skill levels to work in the U.S. legally.
Business leaders are also unsure on how to fund transportation infrastructure as better fuel efficiency reduces gas tax proceeds. Thirty-seven percent support tolling, 31 percent said raise the gas tax, 25 percent support raising the annual registration fee. But just six percent of respondents favor creating a new annual odometer mileage fee.
Kurt R. Bauer, (608) 258-3400

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