Profile of Central City Milwaukee Labor Force Participants: Fall 1993 Household Survey
by Lois M. Quinn and Linda Hawkins, Employment and Training Institute and Social
Science Research Facility, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, February 1994
Adults in 487 Milwaukee households were interviewed in late Fall of 1993 to solicit
information on central city residents employed or seeking jobs, the education and training
background of workers and job seekers, perceived barriers to employment, and the availability
of health insurance for Milwaukee families. The survey was designed by the Employment and
Training Institute for a partnership project with the City of Milwaukee Fair Housing and
Employment Commission, Department of City Development, Milwaukee Area Technical
College, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and the Private Industry Council of
Milwaukee County. Interviews were conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Social Science Research Facility of households in the City of Milwaukee Community
Development Block Grant target areas.
- The labor force status of central city residents, rather than a fixed condition of
permanent employment or unemployment, represents a highly fluid situation. About a fourth
of employed men and women (ages 18-59) were working in temporary or part-time jobs.
- The survey found a high proportion of central city adults (aged 18-59) looking for work
or seeking to improve their employment status. One out of every three men and women in the
labor force reported that they were looking for a job. This included unemployed men and
women (45 percent of all job seekers), workers in temporary or part-time jobs (24 percent of
job seekers), and workers with full-time permanent jobs (31 percent of job seekers). Desire for
better pay, advancement, more hours and better working conditions were cited by employed
Milwaukee residents seeking new jobs.
- In spite of their increased employment experience, central city men did not show greater
stability in employment as they moved into middle-age. The highest proportion of central city
men employed in full-time permanent jobs were in their thirties, with employment rates declining
for men in their forties and dropping sharply for men in their fifties and sixties. Women were
most likely to be employed in full-time permanent jobs in their forties at the end of their child-
- Over half of unemployed men and women who were looking for work did not, or could
not, identify any education or training assets to help them in looking for a job. A majority of
employed job seekers cited on-the-job experience, post-secondary technical training or college
education as assets.
- To address whether transportation was a barrier to employment for central city
Milwaukee residents, adults were asked whether they had a car and a valid state driver's license.
Eighty percent of employed persons had a car, while only 43 percent of unemployed persons
who were interested in working had a car. Additionally, only 47 percent of unemployed persons
(aged 18 to 59) interested in working had a valid Wisconsin driver's license.
- At the request of City of Milwaukee officials, all persons looking for employment or for
a different job were asked whether they were interested in construction work. The interest in
construction cut across racial and gender lines and was particularly strong among minority men
and women. Eighty-three percent of minority male job seekers and 62 percent of minority
female job seekers indicated an interest in construction jobs.
- Health insurance is a critical employment benefit for many Milwaukee families.
Employers covered half of central city households with at least some insurance. Eighty-three
percent of adults and children were covered by health insurance in households where the adult
surveyed worked full-time at a permanent job. Only 77 percent of household members had
health insurance in homes where the respondent worked part-time or in a temporary job. Fifty-
four percent of residents were covered by health insurance (including medicaid) in non-elderly
households where no one was in the labor force.