Asks the Governor to Work with WMC on Both Short-Term & Long-Term Solutions
MADISON – In an appearance Sunday on UpFront, the head of the state’s largest business association made it clear that Gov. Tony Evers needs to take action on Wisconsin’s workforce emergency.
“The evidence is overwhelming – we have a problem,” said Kurt Bauer, President & CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC). “We need the governor’s help to solve it.”
In his own appearance on UpFront a few weeks ago, Gov. Evers acknowledged that Wisconsin has more jobs than workers available but refused to acknowledge the pandemic-related unemployment benefits as a contributing factor. When asked to respond to the governor’s stance that no data exists connecting the expanded unemployment benefits to the labor shortage, Bauer refuted the claim.
“The governor likes to use the metaphor connect the dots, I think the dots connect very clearly here,” he said during the interview. “The San Francisco Federal Reserve called the $300 supplemental to state unemployment benefits a ‘noticeable contributor’ to the workforce challenges…And Jason Furman, who is an Obama era economist, said that only 24 percent of unemployed people are transitioning back to work, and he said that number should be much higher.”
Bauer concluded there are plenty of jobs available in Wisconsin and there is undeniable evidence that we do not need the $300-per-week enhancement to unemployment. Instead, he explained, “we need to get people back to work in order to rebuild the economy after the pandemic.”
During the interview, Bauer cited a recent WMC survey showing that nearly nine in 10 Wisconsin businesses are struggling to hire and 85 percent of Wisconsin businesses support ending the $300 per-week pandemic-related unemployment benefits in an effort to get workers off the sidelines.
When asked about how employers can attract new workers during a labor shortage, Bauer detailed how hard it is to hire when businesses are competing with the federal government. However, he said businesses are still doing everything in their power to attract talent.
“We have seen in our economic survey the highest level of pay increases that we’ve ever recorded,” added Bauer. “They’re paying more. They’re paying hiring bonuses. They’re offering more time off. They’re offering gift cards to keep people on the job. They’re doing to some extent tuition reimbursements. They’re doing all kinds of different things to lure people in and then to keep them.”
As an immediate solution, Bauer called on Gov. Evers to end the $300-per-week pandemic-related unemployment benefits. For a long-term solution, he called on the governor to reinstate the state’s talent attraction campaign to bring more people to live and work in Wisconsin.
WMC has invited Gov. Evers to meet with business leaders to discuss solutions to this crisis-level economic challenge. The governor has not responded to that request in the two weeks since that invitation was sent.