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Survey: Confidence in Wisconsin economy slipping

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(The Center Square) – The people in charge of hiring in Wisconsin are souring on the state’s economy.

Just 22% of employers in Wisconsin think the state’s economy is strong, according to the latest Employer Survey from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce released Thursday morning.

“This data matches with what we have been anecdotally hearing from members for the last six months,” WMC’s Nick Novak told The Center Square. “Record-setting price increases and the rising interest rates to combat them have slowed the economy, causing concern amongst the business community.”

The vast majority of employers, 70%, think the state’s economy is moderate, and 9% think its weak.

The 22% strong number is near historic lows.

Only the employer survey in the summer of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the survey in the winter of 2021 were worse. In that summer 2020 survey, just 12% of employers said the Wisconsin economy was strong. In the winter of 2021, just 20% said the same thing.

“This is certainly cause for concern. What may be more alarming is that the view of the national economy is actually worse than what we saw in the months following the COVID-19 government shutdowns,” Novak said. “Only 10% of Wisconsin employers rate the U.S. economy as strong – it was 12% in our summer 2020 survey.”

The survey says another 62% say the U.S. economy is moderate, and 28% say it’s weak.

A little more than a third of Wisconsin employers think the Wisconsin economy will see moderate growth over the next six months, while just over half say the state’s economy will remain flat.

One continuing problem for bosses in Wisconsin is finding the right and finding enough workers.

The WMC survey says 72% of employers say they are having trouble hiring. The survey says 46% of bosses plan to add more workers in the next six months, compared to just 12% who plan to make cuts.

And even with higher wages, which 97% of employers plan to offer, the survey says it’s tough to find workers.

“Wisconsin employers are doing everything they can to find quality talent, but our state’s demographics are standing in the way. We simply do not have enough people in the state to fill the jobs we currently have available – or the ones we will create in the future,” Novak said. “We must find ways to attract more people to Wisconsin, retain as many young people as we can and get more people off the sidelines.”

Still, Novak said there is something positive to take away from the survey.

“Given that businesses have combatted record-setting inflation, skyrocketing interest rates and disastrous supply chain delays in the last couple years, it could be a lot worse,” Novak added. “Nearly half of employers still plan to hire in 2024, wages are expected to go up and more than a third of businesses expect the Wisconsin economy to grow. Wisconsin employers are resilient, and while I wouldn’t put my name on this economy, I would certainly put my faith in the private sector to find their way through today’s biggest challenges.”

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