Survey of Job Openings in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area: Week of May 17, 1999
by John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn, Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1999
The week of May 17, 1999, an estimated 36,653 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, seasonal fluctuations, and
normal turnover among the 781,131 employed workers in the area. Estimates of job openings
are based on semi-annual surveys of area employers conducted by the University of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute and the UWM Institute for Survey and Policy
Research, as part of a collaborative Labor Market Project with the City of Milwaukee,
Milwaukee Area Technical College, Milwaukee Public Schools, and Private Industry Council
of Milwaukee County. The project is supported by the government partners, the Helen Bader
Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In May employers were seeking workers for an estimated 22,152 full-time and 14,501 part-time
openings. The largest numbers of full-time openings were concentrated in service industries (30
percent of total openings), retail and wholesale trade (25 percent), and manufacturing (15
- Employers reported 15,217 job openings in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington (WOW)
counties, accounting for 41 percent of full-time and 42 percent of part-time openings in the
- Employers in the suburbs and WOW counties continued to find it more difficult to fill
full-time and part-time openings than in the City of Milwaukee. For full-time job openings, 59
percent were identified as difficult to fill in the WOW counties, 67 percent in the Milwaukee
County suburbs, 52 percent in the City of Milwaukee, and 46 percent in the central city
neighborhoods. For part-time job openings, 52 percent were considered difficult to fill in the
WOW counties, 60 percent in the Milwaukee County suburbs, 44 percent in the City of
Milwaukee, but only 29 percent in the central city zipcode areas identified as part of the City's
Community Development Block Grant/Enterprise Community neighborhoods.
Labor Market Supply and Demand
- The federal minimum wage was raised from $4.25 to $4.75 an hour in October 1996,
and to $5.15 in September 1997. The majority of Milwaukee area employers were paying at
or above $5.15 for entry level work before the federal wage changes. Wages for remaining
entry-level positions have continued to climb in response to the tight labor market. In May
1999, less than 1 percent of full-time openings and 4 percent of part-time openings paid
minimum wage ($5.15 an hour). The average wage for entry-level jobs with no experience or
training requirements was $7.62 for full-time openings and $6.75 for part-time work.
- In May 1999, 82 percent of full-time openings could support two persons above the
poverty level, and 74 percent offered wages sufficient to support three persons above poverty
and offered health insurance. However, only 46 percent of full-time job openings with no
education or experience requirements offered health insurance and family-supporting wages for
- Two-thirds of part-time job openings in the health industries (hospitals, nursing homes,
doctor's offices, etc.) and 45 percent of jobs in the finance, insurance and real estate sector
offered health insurance benefits. By contrast, 22 percent of part-time jobs in service sectors
(other than health and education) offered health insurance.
- Labor shortages were evident in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties where
very low unemployment levels (2.1 to 2.2 percent) showed 6,951 unemployed adults compared
to 9,119 full-time and 6,098 part-time job openings. In Milwaukee County the total number of
jobs available (11,209 full-time and 7,295 part-time openings) fell short of the number of
officially counted unemployed job seekers (20,048 workers).
- In the central city neighborhoods, job openings (1,894 full-time and 1,145 part-time) fell
far short of the estimated 10,200 unemployed persons considered actively seeking work in May
1999 and 4,900 cases receiving "W-2" welfare payments.
Education and Training Requirements
- The high demand for trained workers continues. Sixty-two percent of full-time openings
required education, training or occupation-specific experience beyond high school. The survey
showed an estimated 10,492 full-time jobs for experienced or technically trained workers, with
65 percent of these jobs identified as difficult to fill. Employers also reported that 63 percent
of the 2,022 jobs for persons with four-year college degrees (or more) were difficult to fill.
- Twenty-eight percent of full-time openings and 53 percent of part-time openings were
entry level jobs with no education or experience requirements. Another 10 percent of full-time
openings and 13 percent of part-time openings required high school completion but no
experience or training.
- Most entry level full-time and part-time job openings were located in the outlying
counties and the Milwaukee County suburbs. In May 1999, 81 percent of full-time openings for
food preparation and food service workers were located in suburban/exurban areas outside the
City of Milwaukee. Similarly, 72 percent of full-time openings for laborers were in the
suburbs/exurbs, as were 68 percent of openings for stock handlers, helpers and cleaners.
- Many better paying jobs requiring technical training or occupation-specific experience
were located at suburban/exurban worksites. Nearly all (91 percent) of the 876 full-time
openings for precision production occupations and two-thirds (69 percent) of the 1,087 openings
in the construction trades were located at worksites outside the City of Milwaukee.
- An estimated 1,470 full-time and 981 part-time jobs required possession of a valid
driver's or chauffeur's license. These included work for truck drivers (delivery, concrete, long-
haul), driver-sales workers, bus drivers, groundskeepers and some construction workers.
- Individual jobs in highest demand included openings for an estimated 1,762 cashiers (74
percent part-time); 1,759 nursing aides, orderlies and attendants (58 percent part-time); 1,515
food preparation workers (72 percent were part-time); 1,121 truck drivers (24 percent part-time);
and 1,000 registered nurses (50 percent part-time).