State, National Economies are Strong; Labor Availability is Weak


WMC CEO Survey: 73% support Foxconn deal, 81% support worker attraction campaign

MADISON – Wisconsin’s business leaders are concerned about finding labor and the rising cost of health care, but also say the state and national economies are strong, according to the latest economic survey conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state chamber of commerce and largest business association.

Nearly every question about the current state and direction of the Wisconsin and U.S. economies in the semi-annual survey, completed by 210 C-suite level executives, shows improvement from six months ago. For example, more businesses plan to hire, more were profitable during the last six months and expect to be in the next six months, more rate the economy as strong or very strong and more believe Wisconsin is headed in the right direction.

On the down side, the number of businesses that report difficulty finding workers rose to 80 percent, up from 77 percent six months ago, 70 percent a year ago and 53 percent in 2014. That explains why 81 percent of respondents said they either strongly support (31 percent) or somewhat support (50 percent) Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to spend $6.8 million on a campaign to attract workers to Wisconsin.

“The fact that our workforce is dominated by Baby Boomers who are at or nearing retirement with far fewer Gen Xers and Millennials coming in behind is causing a worker crisis in Wisconsin,” said WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer.

He applauded Gov. Walker’s recently announced marketing campaign to attract talent to Wisconsin, saying it is the only logical response. “The lone solution for an acute shortage of working age people is to attract more working age people,” Bauer added.

The governor’s marketing campaign is designed to help businesses moving to the state like Foxconn – which plans to build a massive factory in Southeastern Wisconsin – and other companies already in the state struggling to find workers.

Speaking of Foxconn, 73 percent of survey respondents support the incentive package for the Taiwan-based technology company.

In addition, more executives list rising health care costs as the top concern facing their business. In fact, when asked “what is the number one thing state government could do to help your business,” 34 percent said “make healthcare more affordable,” up from 20 percent in June. Reduce taxes and regulations were tied for second at 20 percent each.

“Healthcare costs are clearly a burden on Wisconsin businesses,” said Bauer. “Obviously, the state legislature can’t reform or repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, but they can answer the cry for help from businesses by joining 44 other states in enacting legislation to create a fee schedule to contain workers compensation medical costs.”

Other findings from the survey:

  • 12% rate the Wisconsin economy as “very strong,” while 58% say it is “strong,” both up from 6% and 50%, respectively.
  • 4% rate the U.S. economy as “very strong,” compared to 1% six months ago, but the number rating the national economy as “strong” spiked to 54% from 33% in June.
  • 19% of executives completing the survey predict “good growth” for their business in the next six months, way up from 7% in June and 70% predict moderate growth, down from 76%.
  • 91% of respondents say their business was profitable during the preceding six months, up from 82% in June.
  • 93% say their business will be profitable during the following six months, up from 90%.
  • 61% plan to add employees in the next six months, up from 59% in June and 58% a year ago.
  • 51% say the labor shortage is the top public policy issue facing Wisconsin, up from 45.5% six months ago.
  • 77% of those surveyed either strongly (34%) or somewhat supports (42.8%) the federal tax reform package currently before the Congress.
  • 77% say U.S. is headed in right direction, down from 81% in June. But interesting enough, more approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president. In June, 31% strongly approved, while 38% somewhat approve. Today, it is 27% strongly approve and 45% somewhat approve.
  • 89.5% said Wisconsin headed in right direction, up from 86% in June.
  • Governor Walker’s approval rating ticked up from 55% strongly and 30% somewhat approve in to June to 63% and 27%, respectively, today.
  • When asked if the work ethic of Wisconsin employees had improved or declined in the last 20 years, 16% said it has strongly declined, while 49% said it has somewhat declined.


For more information, contact:
Nick Novak, 608.258.3400