By Rick Romell
Journal Sentinel

With another strong showing in the long-running Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, metropolitan Milwaukee continues to be a stronghold of business hiring optimism.

But the survey results should be taken in context:

They offer a general indication of how employers are feeling about increasing staff in the near future; they say nothing about how many jobs those feelings might generate.

The survey measures employer sentiment, not expected job growth. A company that indicates it plans to increase employment in the next three months could be adding 500 jobs, or only five.

So, the good news:

For the third quarter — July through September — 31% of employers surveyed in the metro area plan to hire more workers. Just 5% plan to cut back.

That gives metropolitan Milwaukee a healthy “net employment outlook” of 26% — a better number than all but 11 of the country’s 100 largest metro areas.

It’s familiar territory. Since at least the beginning of last year, Milwaukee has typically ranked in the upper fourth of the largest metropolitan areas, and usually in the top 15.

The 26% figure is up three ticks from the second quarter outlook, and virtually matches what Manpower executive Chris Layden called the “really, really strong” 27% result of the third quarter of 2015.

Milwaukee has continued “to perform in the top quartile” of large metro areas, said Layden, managing director of Experis, the professional division of ManpowerGroup.

“And I think the strength of that continues,” he said.

It might surprise observers of Wisconsin’s economy, however, to learn that Milwaukee has consistently outperformed metropolitan Madison on the survey since at least the beginning of 2015.

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