University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Employment and Training Institute


Survey of Job Openings in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area: Week of October 20, 2003

by John Pawasarat, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute for the Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County, December 2003.

The week of October 20, 2003, an estimated 16,080 full and part-time jobs were open for immediate hire in the four-county Milwaukee metropolitan area. These openings are the result of company expansions, labor shortages in difficult to fill positions, s easonal fluctuations, and normal turnover among the 776,316 employed workers in the area. The job vacancy study was prepared by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute and compiles data on job openings provided by 2,334 em ployers in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. The Milwaukee job openings surveys are the most extensive and continuous surveys of employer workforce development needs in the nation.


  • Predictions of an economic recovery were not in evidence as of October 2003 when employers in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties reported openings for an estimated 8,412 full-time and 7,668 part-time openings. Full-time job openings in the metropolitan area were at their lowest point since the surveys were initiated in 1993.

  • Less than one in ten Milwaukee area employers were hiring new or replacement workers in October 2003, down from one in six in October 2002 and almost one in four in May 2000. Less than half (46 percent) of companies with 500-999 employees were hiring any new workers in October 2003, compared to 59 percent of such companies making hires a year ago.

  • In the central city Milwaukee CDBG neighborhoods, job openings (683 full-time and 873 part-time) fell far short of the estimated 14,340 unemployed persons considered actively seeking work in October 2003 and 6195 cases receiving "W-2" welfare payme nts. The job gap between unemployed job seekers and welfare recipients expected to work and available full-time jobs located in central city neighborhoods was 30 to 1 in October 2003. Last October, the job gap in the central city was 16 to 1.

Estimated Job Gap in City of Milwaukee CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) Neighborhoods
Est. W-2/AFDC
Date of Unemployed "Expected Full-Time
Survey Population to Work" Total Openings Job Gap
Oct. 2003 14,340 6,195 20,535 683 30 to 1
Oct. 2002 13,020 5,452 18,472 1,172 16 to 1
Oct. 2001 13,132 4,737 17,869 1,666 11 to 1
May 2000 11,400 3,770 15,170 1,707 9 to 1
May 1999 10,200 4,900 15,100 1,894 8 to 1
Oct. 1998 9,800 6,075 15,875 2,334 7 to 1
May 1998 7,800 9,800 17,600 1,764 10 to 1
Oct. 1997 9,200 10,815 20,015 1,850 11 to 1
May 1997 10,000 11,560 21,560 2,093 10 to 1
Oct. 1996 8,550 15,250 23,800 2,473 9 to 1
May 1996 10,400 11,177 21,577 2,061 10 to 1
Oct. 1995 9,200 14,875 24,075 2,622 9 to 1

  • The job gap in the central city shows the long-term effects of growing unemployment in the City of Milwaukee.

City of Milwaukee Unemployment Rate at Time of Job Openings Surveys
Date of Job City of Milwaukee
Openings Survey Unemployment Rate
Oct. 2003 9.0%
Oct. 2002 8.2%
Oct. 2001 7.6%
May 2000 6.1%
May 1999 5.5%
Oct. 1998 5.1%
May 1998 4.1%
Oct. 1997 4.7%
May 1997 5.2%
Oct. 1996 4.5%
May 1996 5.4%
Oct. 1995 4.8%

  • In Milwaukee County total jobs available (4,911 full-time and 3,906 part-time openings) fell short of the number of officially counted unemployed job seekers (32,038 workers). Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties with lower unemployment levels (3.9 to 4.2 percent) showed 13,217 unemployed adults compared to 3,289 full-time and 3,119 part- time job openings.

  • The largest numbers of full-time openings were concentrated in service industries (40 percent of total openings), retail and wholesale trade (22 percent), and manufacturing (17 percent). Part-time openings were concentrated mainly in retail and whole sale trade (43 percent) and the service sector (42 percent).

  • Increased full-time openings were noted in the manufacturing sector (where full-time openings were up by 527 over a year ago) and retail and wholesale trade (with full-time openings up 410) . These increases were, however, offset by fewer job vacanci es in the finance, insurance and real estate sector; and the service industries. Part-time openings were up by 1,233 over last October, attributed to increased part-time positions in the retail and wholesale trade sector. As expected, job openings were down for both full-time and part-time positions in government.

  • While increased full-time jobs were seen in manufacturing, 61 percent of the openings for precision production, craft and repair workers were located in Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties. In contrast, most (68 percent) of health related open ings were in Milwaukee County as were 66 percent of openings in the finance, insurance, and real estate sector.

  • Full-time openings in October 2003 were almost a third of those reported in May 2000 when the metro area was experiencing labor shortages in many sectors (with 8,412 full-time openings in 2003, compared to 24,242 in 2000). Part-time openings were hig her than in October 2002, but still at about half of the levels reported in May 2000 (with 7,668 part-time openings in 2003, compared to 14,072 in 2000). The rise in part-time openings was primarily due to increases in jobs in retail and wholesale trade.


  • Job shortages persist in health care occupations and institutions where openings made up 25 percent of Milwaukee area full-time and part-time openings. Health care-related jobs showed an estimated 1,811 full-time and 2,092 part-time openings. Th ese openings are below the vacancies reported a year ago, when vacancies were reported for 2,386 full-time and 2,171 part-time health care workers.

    The largest numbers of openings were for 1,256 registered nurses; 572 nursing assistants, aides and orderlies; 513 health aides; 388 health technologists and technicians (including 151 health record technologists and technicians, and 107 radiologic techni cians); 174 licensed practical nurses; and 76 physical therapists.

  • About a fourth (26 percent) of the full-time openings required four years of college or more, and most required additional years of experience. Another 57 percent required post- secondary education, an associate degree, certification, licensing, or oc cupation-specific experience. Jobs for high school graduates, with no specific experience required, made up 8 percent of the full-time openings, while jobs with no education or training requirements made up the remaining 9 percent of jobs.

  • Most of the entry-level jobs available for workers with no education beyond high school and not requiring occupation-specific training were part-time rather than full-time. Most (81 percent of openings) entry-level full-time jobs were located outside the City of Milwaukee in the WOW counties (51 percent) or in the Milwaukee County suburbs (30 percent). Entry-level part-time jobs were also located outside the City of Milwaukee, with 44 percent in the WOW counties and 26 percent in the Milwaukee County su burbs.

  • Entry-level jobs in the City of Milwaukee were concentrated in retail establishments (65 percent of openings).


  • Most full-time job openings were for trained workers. Eighty-three percent of full-time openings required education, training or occupation-specific experience beyond high school.

Full-Time Positions with 100 or More Openings
591 - Registered nurses
336 - Securities and financial services sales occupations
318 - Sales workers, apparel and other commodities
287 - Engineers - mechanical, electrical, civil
271 - Management-related positions
241 - Computer programmers, systems analysts, operators, supervisors
226 - Helpers, mechanics, and repairers
202 - Health aides
182 - Machine operators
180 - Production helpers
178 - Truck drivers
172 - Bank tellers
163 - Laborers
156 - Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
151 - Supervisors, food preparation and service occupations
150 - Garage and service station-related occupations
150 - Sales support occupations
147 - Sales occupations, other business services
134 - Accounting, payroll, and billing clerks
126 - Cashiers and sales counter clerks
119 - Office and file clerks
114 - Barbers and cosmetologists
109 - Traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks
108 - Health technologists and technicians
104 - General office clerks

The highest demands for college-educated workers were in the professions, including business management, sales representatives, engineers, and social service workers. The survey showed demand for computer programmers, systems analysts and programmers (fo r both full-time and part-time openings), but not in the numbers of some previous years. At the same time, a growing number of other positions expect demonstrated computer skills and knowledge of software programs.

  • In the technical training area, full-time positions were available for nurses, certified nursing assistants, health technologists and technicians, truck drivers, and barbers and cosmetologists. Clerical opportunities were included for secretaries, office and file clerks, and accounting, payroll and billing clerks.


  • Hospitals and clinics reported a demand for nurses to work in part-time positions, and for nursing aides, licensed practical nurses, and health technologists and technicians. Other part-time openings were concentrated in retail sales, food servic e, and some business office work.

  • Nurses continue to represent the only sizeable professional field where a majority of workers sought are for part-time positions rather than for full-time work. Fifty-three percent of openings for registered nurses, 69 percent of openings for licensed pr actical nurses, and 52 percent of openings for health technologists and technicians were for part- time jobs - some with regular shift hours, but many for "pool" positions or variable shifts.

Part-Time Positions with 100 or More Openings:
714 - Sales workers, apparel and other commodities
665 - Registered nurses
650 - Kitchen workers and food preparation occupations
566 - Cashiers
424 - Sales counter clerks
416 - Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
311 - Health aides (except nursing aides)
288 - Waiters and waitresses
269 - Supervisors, food preparation and service occupations
252 - Stock and inventory clerks
202 - Health technologists and technicians
200 - Helpers, mechanics, and repairers
186 - Freight, stock and material handlers
186 - Sales support occupations
164 - Bank tellers
152 - Miscellaneous food preparation occupations
118 - Licensed practical nurses
118 - Child care workers and early childhood teacher's assistants
114 - Computer operators and programmers
108 - Bartenders
103 - Cooks


  • Increasingly, employers are using the Internet to post their full-time and part-time openings - not just for professional and skilled workers but for all levels of employment. The expansion of job postings on the web requires more sophisticated job searc h skills by employment counselors and changes in job search assistance provided job seekers, particularly those lacking computer access or skills.


  • The entry level full-time and part-time openings are for lower wage jobs. The October 2003 survey showed an increase in the number of part-time jobs paying less than $6.00 an hour. The last changes in the federal minimum wage were effected in Oc tober 1996 when the minimum wage was raised from $4.25 to $4.75 an hour and in September 1997, when the minimum wage rose another forty cents to $5.15 an hour. Prior job vacancies surveys showed the majority of Milwaukee area employers paying at or above $5.15 for entry level work before the federal wage changes while wages for the remaining entry-level positions continued to climb. With sustained unemployment and lower-paying jobs staying open longer, this year's survey shows a return to lower wages fo r entry-level part-time positions. In October 2002, 12 percent of part-time jobs with no education or training requirements paid less than $6.00. In October 2003, 23 percent paid below $6.00.

  • The average wage for entry-level jobs with no experience or training requirements has fallen from $8.67 in October 2002 to $8.08 an hour in October 2003. Average wages for entry-level jobs for part-time work also showed declines from $7.34 an hour in Oct ober 2002 to $6.85 in October 2003.

  • The number of jobs supporting families above the federal poverty level dropped - both in number and in their percentage of available jobs. In October 2003, 76 percent of full-time openings offered health insurance and wages sufficient to support two pers ons above the federal poverty level ($12,120). Two-thirds (69 percent) offered health insurance and wages sufficient to support three persons above the federal poverty level ($15,260). Only 23 percent of full-time job openings with no education or exper ience requirements offered health insurance and wages above the federal poverty level for three- person families ($18,400).

  • The majority (77 percent) of full-time job openings offered health insurance benefits. By contrast, only 27 percent of part-time openings had health insurance coverage.

Background on the Milwaukee Job Vacancy Survey

The Milwaukee job openings surveys were developed by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute in 1992 at the request of the City of Milwaukee. Initial funding support was provided by the Helen Bader Foundation and the five government partners collaborating on the Milwaukee Labor Market Project: the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County. Milwa ukee was the first major city in the nation to regularly study job openings in order to assess the number and type of jobs available and the level of skill training employers need to fill openings. Surveys have been conducted semi-annually or annually si nce 1993.

In 1998, the U.S. Congress identified the Milwaukee Job Openings Surveys as a national model. The DOL Employment and Training Administration (ETA) subsequently contracted with the UWM Employment and Training Institute to develop a manual on how to condu ct such surveys and recommended the Milwaukee approach for other cities and labor markets. The Milwaukee approach is now used by a number of states (including Colorado, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Rhode Island), major met ropolitan areas (including Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and St. Louis), and scores of urban and rural counties. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which had abandoned its own job vacancies studies in the early 1980s, has reinstituted vacancies studies, and th e ETA actively promotes use of job vacancy studies as a workforce development tool. The Workforce Information Council has also identified job vacancy statistics as a major priority for the states.

The October 2003 survey conducted for the Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County meets the needs of the Workforce Investment Act to provide accurate information on job vacancies, occupations in demand, and the earnings and skill requirements of such occupations, required as a core service available to the general public and to WIA clients. The information is used by the Private Industry Council, employers, public officials, workforce development staff, job trainers, and educational institutions to assist in:

  • measuring employer demand for workers in the Milwaukee metro area.

  • providing an indicator of labor force shortages and the overall health of the local economy.

  • identifying workforce development priorities and industrial sectors with employment potential.

  • analyzing the characteristics of job vacancies, including full or part-time positions, wages and benefits offered, and education and experience requirements.

  • planning workforce development strategies and employment services (for job placement, retention and training) to meet needs of underemployed central city populations.

  • identifying entry-level jobs available for welfare recipients, new labor force entrants, and students.

  • assessing spatial and skill mismatches between employer needs and labor force participants.

  • determining technical education priorities and training gaps at the post-secondary school level.

  • identifying career development opportunities and ladders for skilled and semiskilled workers.

  • offering current labor market information for counseling students and jobseekers.

  • developing workforce preparation programs and services for in-school youth and displaced workers.

The Employment and Training Institute's Milwaukee Labor Market Project also involves ongoing collaboration between the University and local governments and educational institutions.

  • The City of Milwaukee, which first identified a need for current data on job vacancies, uses the research to identify job gaps between the city workforce and available jobs, particularly in central city neighborhoods. Spatial mismatches are addressed thr ough initiatives, including the Renewal Community federal tax incentive program, redevelopment of Menomonee Valley industrial sites, the Residents Preference Program, and support for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.

  • The Milwaukee Public Schools uses the data for career education, planning, and student counseling. In 1999 the Employment and Training Institute worked with MPS and MATC to develop a curriculum for students, teachers and counselors on understanding the l ocal labor market and career planning and provided training for MPS counselors. A website version of the curriculum is for middle and high school students is posted on the Institute's website at

  • Milwaukee Area Technical College administrators regularly review the job vacancy findings along with results from their follow-up studies of MATC graduates to identify priorities for technical training and areas in high demand by local employers.

  • The UWM Employment and Training Institute prepares policy policy papers and provides technical assistance on workforce development issues and labor market shortages, including work researching critical needs in the health professions, addressing transport ation and child care barriers to employment, mapping the workforce by occupational area, and planning for demographic changes in the labor force.

The job vacancy survey design, sampling, methodology, survey administration and data verification procedures are described in the eighty-page paper, Surveying Job Vacancies in Local Labor Markets: A How-To Manual, prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor and available on the Internet at The response rate for this survey was 46 percent. Summaries of job openings reports for the Milwaukee metro area for prior years (1993 through 2002) are available on the UWM Employment and Training Institute website at For more information, contact John Pawasarat, Director, Employment and Training Institute, School of Continuing Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 161 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 6000, Mil waukee, WI 53203. Phone (414) 227-3380. Email:

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