University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Employment and Training Institute

Brief Summary

Toward Full Utilization of the Milwaukee Area Labor Force: A Planning Guide for Employers

by John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn, Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, September 1994

A critical challenge facing public policy makers and human resource planners is how to utilize the full potential of the Milwaukee area workforce. The report provides a comprehensive description of the metropolitan labor force to assist employers in planning for their companies and establishes benchmarks to assess employment and hiring patterns in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Detailed tables are provided on the labor pool of workers by occupational titles, the employment of workers by industry, and the current utilization of women and minorities in the Milwaukee labor force.

The most comprehensive data available for analysis of the Milwaukee area labor force population by age, race, sex, and level of education are the series of computerized data files available through the 1990 U.S. Census. Data sets used in this report include the Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files of the 1990 Census, the 1990 Census/EEO Special Tabulations file, and 1991 EEO-1 reports of metropolitan Milwaukee area employers. This report, summarizing these data files, is made available to local governments and Milwaukee area employers for planning purposes. Highlights of the data analysis are presented below.

  • The Milwaukee area labor force expanded from 697,465 workers in 1980 to 740,963 workers in 1990. Highest growth was seen in professional occupations (an increase of 21,403 workers), administrative and managerial positions (a 19,780 increase), and sales occupations (an 18,065 increase). Blue collar occupations as operators, fabricators and laborers showed the largest declines -- with 29,459 fewer workers in these fields by 1990. Contrary to popular perception, the Milwaukee area did not see a large increase in non-professional service workers during the decade. Occupations as service workers increased only 2.3 percent.
  • While technological innovations have created new jobs requiring advanced educational training, a significant number of college graduates in the Milwaukee area appear underutilized, in occupations not commensurate with their education. One out of every six female college graduates in the Milwaukee metropolitan labor force (17.8 percent) and one out of every eight male college graduates (13.3 percent) were in occupations not requiring a college degree.
  • Analysis of EEO-1 data reported to the federal government for larger companies and companies with federal contracts was used to assess current efforts of these employers to incorporate women and minorities into their workforce in proportion to the overall availability in the metropolitan labor force. Private companies with over 100 employees made up 3 percent of all companies in the Milwaukee area, but accounted for 50 percent of all private employment and an estimated 71 percent of minorities employed in the private sector. The EEO-1 reporting companies showed that 15 percent of their workforce was made up of minorities, while it is estimated that the balance of employers with less than 100 employees had an overall minority employment rate of 6 percent.
  • Many Milwaukee companies have a demonstrated track record in minority hiring. One-third of private companies filing EEO-1 reports were hiring minorities at or above the overall availability rate of 14.34 percent. At the same time, for one-third of reporting companies minorities made up fewer than 5 percent of their workforce.
  • Companies located in Milwaukee County were more likely to hire at availability levels for minorities than companies located in the outlying areas of the metropolitan area. Forty-three percent of companies in Milwaukee County reported minority employment at or above availability level, compared to 11 percent of companies located in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington Counties.
  • Companies reporting EEO-1 data in the metropolitan area showed 43 percent employing women at or above the standard for officials and managers while 17 percent of companies employed women at less than 1 percent as officials and managers. Women were most successful in professional services and finance sectors where over 80 percent of companies employed women at or above the standard.
  • Lack of transportation to jobs appears to represent a serious barrier to employment for many city residents, particularly in the central city. Less than half (44 percent) of unemployed workers from Milwaukee's central city (primary CDBG) area had a car in their household. On the City's northwest and east sides and the southside, one out of five unemployed persons did not have a car in their household. Lack of adequate transportation limits these job seekers' access to employment, particularly for jobs in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties.
  • Employed persons in Milwaukee's central city showed a strong dependence upon public transportation and carpooling. Only 70 percent of employed workers in Milwaukee's central city had a car in their household, while over 90 percent of employed workers from all other geographical areas of the SMSA had one or more cars in their household.
  • Young high school graduates in the Milwaukee SMSA were much more likely to be employed if they were white. Among all high school graduates, aged 18-30 and not enrolled in post-secondary education, young white men showed employment rates (full- and part-time) of 91 percent and white women 80 percent employment, compared to rates of only 63 percent for young black male graduates and 47 percent for young black female high school completers. Among high school dropouts aged 18-30, black men showed employment rates less than half those for white male dropouts -- 34 percent and 78 percent respectively.
  • Workers lacking a high school education were particularly vulnerable in Milwaukee's changing economy. Over half of all workers lacking a high school diploma were concentrated in five of 69 occupational clusters: food preparation and service; machine operators; retail and personal sales; cleaning and building services; and fabricator, assembler and handworking occupations. One out of every eight high school dropouts in the Milwaukee labor force was in food preparation and service occupations, compared to one out of every 28 workers with a high school degree or better.
  • Employment patterns for minorities were examined by each of twelve industrial sectors and by level of workers' educational attainment to assess minority employment for Milwaukee area industrial sectors. In Milwaukee County, the construction and wholesale trade sectors were below the availability standard of minorities at all educational levels. Public administration and the transportation, communications and utilities sectors in Milwaukee County hired minorities with four year college degrees or more at twice the overall availability for the metropolitan area. In Waukesha County minorities were least likely to be employed in agriculture, construction, and the professional services sector. In Ozaukee/Washington counties, minorities showed low employment in all industrial sectors with 0 percent in public administration, and the finance, insurance and real estate sector.

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