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COVID-19 Hits Business Community, But Workforce Shortage Still a Concern

MADISON – Three-quarters of Wisconsin companies said COVID-19 and the state’s safer at home order had a negative financial impact on their business in a recent survey conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association.

According to the survey of nearly 150 employers, the top public policy issue facing Wisconsin is the regulatory environment related to COVID-19. This is the first survey in more than five years where the workforce shortage was not the number one issue. However, even with high unemployment, the workforce shortage still ranked second.

“COVID-19 and the safer at home order clearly had a significant impact on employers and employees throughout the state,” said Kurt Bauer, WMC President & CEO. “However, we cannot overlook the fact that the state’s workforce shortage isn’t going anywhere. Even with high unemployment, businesses and policymakers need to find solutions today that will solve our workforce concerns of the future.”

While 75 percent of businesses experienced a negative financial impact from COVID-19 and the state’s safer at home order, only 23 percent of businesses predict they will end 2020 in the red. Fifty-one percent expect to be less profitable, but still end the year with a profit; seven percent saw no impact on their profitability and another seven percent said they would be more profitable.

As the economic downturn hit companies, many had to make temporary or permanent reductions in staffing. Forty-one percent of respondents said they made a temporary or permanent reduction in employees, while 49 percent did not.

Of employers that had to reduce staff levels, 45 percent laid off less than 10 percent of their staff. About one-third laid off 10-20 percent of their staff, and 10 percent of respondents laid off 21-30 percent of their staff. Ten percent of businesses had to lay off more than 30 percent of employees.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, one in five businesses closed their facility at one point and one in four required most or all employees to work from home. Of the employers who required employees to work from home, 39 percent have already returned to the facility or office, eight percent will return in the next month and another eight percent will return by the end of summer. Twenty-one percent will return at a later date or have the option to work from home permanently, while 19 percent of employers are still unsure.

“This unprecedented event flipped the Wisconsin economy on its head,” added Bauer. “Businesses large and small have been resilient, and we look forward to working with all of them as our state reopens.”

The survey was conducted the last two weeks of June and is a representative sample of the WMC membership.

Other Findings:

  • 38% of respondents said COVID-19 regulations were the top public policy concern facing Wisconsin, followed by the labor shortage (16%) and high taxes (9%)
  • 27% of respondents said the national economy is the top business concern facing their company, followed by COVID-19 (20%) and labor availability (19%)
  • 31% of businesses plan to increase their number of employees in the next six months, while 20% plan to decrease and 45% will see no change
  • 68% of respondents approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as President, while 20% disapprove
  • 10% of respondents approve of the job Tony Evers is doing as Governor, while 79% disapprove

Click here to see the full results.




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