A longtime economic development advocate in Wisconsin calls the problem “competing with the couch.”
A chorus of voices from state-owned enterprises say they can’t find enough workers to fill the vacancies, a trend that could spread as Memorial Day weekend approaches and the traditional start of the summer tourist season in Wisconsin.
Leaders of groups such as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses of Wisconsin and others have sounded the alarm, with some specifically accusing the federal government of $ 300 a week in additional unemployment benefits.
Skeptics counter that jobs are slowly rebounding everywhere, even in states that have accepted the additional benefits, and that worker shortages were a problem long before COVID-19 hit the economy.
“(Continue additional benefits) threatens the viability of thousands of businesses and the jobs they provide for workers,” WMC Chairman Kurt Bauer wrote in a letter to Gov. Tony Evers. “If immediate action is not taken, there is a high probability that long-term and irreversible damage will be done to Wisconsin’s economy.”
At least nine states have rejected the additional benefits, and more of them have considered it, citing the same hiring difficulties as WMC’s Bauer. He is not alone. Bill G. Smith, State Director of the NFIB, said 44% of small businesses cannot fill vacancies and over 90% cannot find “qualified” workers, according to a recent survey. Bill Elliott, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association, called the hiring famine “brutal” because it follows COVID-related shutdowns that have hurt his industry.