University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Employment and Training Institute

Brief Summary

Job Openings in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area: Week of October 20, 1997

by John Pawasarat, Lois M. Quinn and Ann H. Hendrix, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute, 1997

The week of October 20, 1997, an estimated 31,874 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 780,700 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 Milwaukee Foundation.

Total Openings

  • In October employers were seeking an estimated 20,182 full-time workers and 11,692 part-time employees. Employers reported 2,949 more full-time job openings than one year ago and 140 fewer part-time openings.

  • The largest numbers of full-time openings were concentrated in service industries (36 percent of total openings), manufacturing (23 percent), and retail and wholesale trade (20 percent). Job openings in service industries were 1,764 higher than a year ago and openings in manufacturing were up by nearly 1,600.

  • Employers reported 522 fewer full-time openings in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties than a year ago. The WOW counties accounted for 39 percent of full-time and 42 percent of part-time openings in the metropolitan area.

Education and Training Requirements

  • The high demand for trained workers continues. Two-thirds (67 percent) of full-time openings required education, training or occupation-specific experience beyond high school. The survey showed an estimated 10,758 full-time jobs for experienced or technically trained workers, with 66 percent of these jobs identified as difficult to fill. Employers also reported that 58 percent of the 2,063 jobs for persons with four-year college degrees (or more) were difficult to fill.

  • Full-time openings for four-year college graduates included jobs for engineers, computer programmers and systems analysts, sales supervisors, salaried managers, insurance sales staff and social workers. Frequently listed positions requiring certification, licensing or an associate degree included computer programmers, truck drivers, technicians (health and non-health), computer systems analysts, certified nursing assistants, salaried managers and automobile mechanics. Jobs in high demand for persons with occupation-specific experience or training included welders and cutters, sales supervisors, vehicle washers and equipment cleaners, child care workers, manufacturing and wholesale trade sales representatives, lathe and turning machine set-up operators, and financial services sales workers.

  • The number of entry level jobs with no education or experience requirements was up compared to last year. In October employers reported 4,317 full-time openings in this category, compared to 2,989 openings last year. Jobs in high demand without education or experience requirements included full-time positions for printing machine operators, assemblers, groundskeepers/gardeners, machinist apprentices, stock handlers and baggers, and manufacturing machine operators.
Wage Rates

  • The federal minimum wage was raised from $4.25 to $4.75 an hour on October 1, 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 the remaining entry-level positions have continued to climb -- likely in response to both the minimum wage law and the tight labor market. In October 1997 only 19 percent of full-time openings with no education or experience requirements paid less than $6.00 an hour, compared with 40 percent of such openings in May 1996 before the minimum wage change. None of the full-time openings requiring high school completion but no experience or training paid under $6.00 an hour in October 1997, compared with 14 percent of such openings in May 1996.

  • In October 1997, 78 percent of full-time openings could support two persons above the poverty level, compared with only 48 percent of openings in May 1996 prior to the minimum wage change. Entry-level jobs offered wages sufficient to support three persons above poverty for 56 percent of openings in October 1997 compared with 31 percent of such openings in May 1996. However, only 16 percent of the full-time job openings with no education or experience requirements offered health insurance and family-supporting wages for four-person families.

Labor Market Supply and Demand

  • Labor shortages were evident in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties where very low unemployment levels (1.9 to 2.5 percent) showed 6,500 unemployed adults compared to 7,963 full-time and 4,920 part-time job openings. Even in Milwaukee County the total number of jobs available (11,833 full-time and 6,532 part-time) was about equal to the number of officially counted unemployed job seekers (18,100).

  • In the central city of Milwaukee Community Development Block Grant/Enterprise Community neighborhoods, full-time job openings (1,850) fell far short of the estimated 9,200 unemployed persons considered actively seeking work in October 1997.

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