Thursday, June 08, 2006

Read the WHOLE Story on Labor Shortage

The reported "labor shortage" in Wisconsin has some folks in a tizzy; but one can be justifiably skeptical of the reports.

The Milwaukee JS coverage today includes an interview with the President of Badger Meter:

Why build new facilities in Mexico rather than near its Brown Deer headquarters?

"It is easier to hire people," said Richard Meeusen, chairman, president and chief executive officer. "It has been getting harder to hire skilled people" in Wisconsin.

"Skilled people" in Mexico vs. Wisconsin? Kinda depends on precisely what skills. It's certainly not machining, nor CNC/automated machinery programming.

We suspect that it's a total compensation issue. And sure enough, here are the magic words:

Among the challenges of employing more people in Wisconsin is the cost of health care, the WMC report found. On a per-employee basis, almost half the firms said that health care costs have gone up between 11% and 20% in the past year, while only 3% said they did not increase.

Not to mention two other oppressive features of doing business in Wisconsin:

Reducing taxes was the most important thing Wisconsin's government could do to help the business climate, followed by reducing regulation, the respondents said

But there's more. Over the last 10 years or so, but particularly in the period between 9/11 and mid-2005, Wisconsin's manufacturing job base has been decimated. A lot of factories closed. When that happens, it has an effect: perspicacious youth look to other career fields, as do their suddenly-unemployed parents.

Therefore, besides the general shortage of younger people in the job market, there is a specific shortage of younger people who are entering technical schools in "industrial arts" curricula.

So yes, there is a "shortage." But there IS an economic component (wages/benefits are not attractive) AND a 'historical' component (plants and jobs come and go--is THIS a career?); both of these components have an impact.

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