85% Support Repealing the $300 Pandemic-Related Unemployment Benefit
MADISON – A new survey of Wisconsin businesses indicates the state’s workforce shortage has become an emergency, and employers are pleading with Gov. Tony Evers to take action. According to the Wisconsin Employer Survey, 86 percent of businesses are struggling to hire workers.
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association – conducted the survey over the first three weeks of June on a variety of topics. On Wednesday, WMC released data focused specifically on workforce and employment.
“It is time for Gov. Evers to connect the dots on this major issue for our economy,” said WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer. “Hundreds of Wisconsin businesses just barely survived months of government-mandated lockdowns, restrictions and limited capacity. Now, many of those same businesses face another serious government-imposed burden in the form of overly generous unemployment benefits that have created a full-blown workforce emergency.”
When asked why they were having trouble hiring workers, a plurality – 35 percent of businesses – said the unemployment benefits were too generous. That was followed by 30 percent blaming a lack of applicants with the proper skills and 26 percent blaming the overall shortage of people. Additionally, 85 percent of employers said they support ending the $300 pandemic-related unemployment enhancement.
Respondents overwhelmingly – 72 percent – said the workforce shortage was the top public policy issue facing Wisconsin. Businesses are not struggling to hire due to a lack of trying, however. Nearly 80 percent said they plan to increase the number of employees in the next six months, and they are raising wages to do so. Seven in 10 businesses plan to raise wages at least three percent in 2021, while over a quarter of businesses plan to raise wages by more than four percent.
“Repealing the expanded unemployment benefits is a short-term solution that our economy needs right now,” added Bauer. “But, we must also address long-term challenges to retain young Wisconsinites after they graduate from high school, attract people from outside the state to live and work here, and train people who need upskilling for the family-supporting careers we have available.”
To help grow the population of working-age people, 73 percent of employers think the state should fund a talent attraction campaign. Businesses also back increased technical training opportunities for high school students. Eighty-seven percent said they would support expanding these types of classes in the place of some general education courses.
WMC plans to release additional data from the Wisconsin Employer Survey in the coming weeks. Topics will include state and federal public policy, COVID-19 and the economy. WMC surveyed 266 employers that make up a representative sample of its membership. Businesses of all sizes, industries and geographic locations in Wisconsin participated.