The Milwaukee County Labor Market and The Role of the Private Industry Council
Morris, Melissa Ann
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Wisconsin was prosperous in the 1990's; however, Wisconsin's largest county did not fair so well. Milwaukee County grew mildly compared to Wisconsin and the nation. This mild growth was a result of several trends. These trends stem from changes in both the labor demand and labor supply sides of the labor market. Both sides of the labor market are affected by each other creating a dynamic labor market. As a result this dynamic market has created serious problems that policy makers must address. Agencies like Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County a Workforce Development Board have been charged with the duty of bringing Milwaukee County's labor market back into order. On the demand side Milwaukee businesses only added I 05,000 jobs to the Milwaukee region over the last decade, becoming Wisconsin's second slowest growth area. Much of the growth that did occur was generated by the service industry. One of Milwaukee's slowest growing areas was manufacturing, which only grew by 9%. On the other hand the service sector grew 35%. This data is consistent with national trends that suggest that there is a shift from manufacturing related employment to service oriented jobs. This service industry is fueled by the surge of temp agencies in the market and new hiring practices by employers. Despite Manufacturing's low growth rate there was a surge in key areas such as Air transportation and the lithography industry. Unlike the national data, Milwaukee's manufacturing industry although achieving low growth rates, will remain an important industry in Milwaukee. The existence of motorcycle, sausage and foundry businesses help keep the manufacturing sector going. There is also a lot of opportunity for expansion in many industries in Milwaukee. For example the elderly health care sector and secondary education sector are in need of qualified personnel. The location of many companies; however, are in the suburbs and neighboring counties causing problems for the labor force. Milwaukee County's total population has declined 2.8% in the last decade losing 17,434 residents. This lose in population can be attributed to people moving were jobs are located. The ease of commuting between neighboring counties, because of highway system. Furthermore the affects of families getting away from city areas to escape poverty and lower property taxes have all attributed to decreasing population for Milwaukee. Despite lowering levels of population the labor force has increased as the baby boomer generation progresses into their prime career age. Increased labor force is also attributed to changes in age distribution and the greater number of women entering into the labor market. Milwaukee has experienced historically low total unemployment rates; however, minority groups in the area continue to have an unemployment crisis. Commuting patterns show that a large number of non-Milwaukee Residents commute into Milwaukee from neighboring counties. On the other hand in 1990 60,000 Milwaukee residents worked in neighboring counties ad currently three out of four of these commuters are working in Waukesha County. Another characteristic of the Milwaukee labor force is the number of working poor. Those people who are most likely to be among the working poor population are minorities and those with out a high school diploma. Many problems arise when labor demand and labor supply are brought together. Transportation becomes an important issue in Milwaukee, because those who are unemployed are in Milwaukee's inner city while the jobs are either in the suburbs or in neighboring counties. Public Transportation between the inner and the outlying destinations is unreliable or nonexistent. This problem is more serious when one factors in the suspension and revocation policies enforce by the Department of Motor Vehicle. There is also a serious gap between the education and training required by employers and that possessed by potential employees. Many employers argue that candidates do not have the soft skills needed to be a productive employee. Despite the perception of labor shortages in Milwaukee there has also been some indication of job shortages. By factoring all those who would be potentially participating in the labor ·market data indicates that Milwaukee would have a job gap of 24,682 jobless. The increase in service sector jobs has also increased the number of low paying jobs in Milwaukee's labor market. These low paying jobs result in working poor people. A government agency that has accepted the challenge of improving Milwaukee's labor environment is the Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County, A Workforce Development. This agency has established One-Stop centers through the Workforce Investment Act that will incorporate all state and local programs. Some programs include, but are not limited to on-the-job training, JobRide, Step-up, and IT 2000 programs. All of these programs have been established for the betterment of Milwaukee's labor force.