Business Owners Concerned about Worker Shortage, Rising Healthcare Costs

MacIver News Service | July 18, 2016

[Madison, Wis…] A survey by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) has found that business leaders are concerned about an ongoing worker shortage and the rising cost of healthcare.

The survey found that 70 percent of the respondents reported difficulty in finding qualified candidates for jobs, a percentage which mirrors last summer’s number. In response to the worker shortage, some companies have begun trying to attract new employees by offering new incentives. While hourly wages have increased only slightly, business are now offering more flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting, increased hiring incentives, and higher salary and benefit packages.

If a company is unable to fill needed positions, some employers have been completing necessary work by outsourcing and using temporary agencies, as well as asking current employees to work overtime. Other businesses have chosen to turn down contracts or delay company expansions.

The inability for businesses to meet work demand through expansion has WMC president/CEO Kurt Bauer concerned. “Everyone who cares about out state’s economy should be alarmed to learn that Wisconsin businesses are being forced to delay expansion projects, aren’t bidding for contracts, and are outsourcing work out-of-state because they can’t find employees,” he said.

As MacIver reported back in early June, a Public Opinion Strategies (POS) poll commissioned by the Jobs First Coalition showed similar results. The economy and jobs were the top concerns of Wisconsin voters in selected swing districts with 30 percent of respondents said improving the economy and jobs situation should be the top goal of the governor and state legislature.

The second highest concern for respondents was the rising cost of healthcare. Compared to the last three surveys done by WMC, the current survey shows that healthcare costs have risen an estimated 11-20 percent for businesses. Costs increased between 11-20 percent for 41 percent of respondents, while 37 percent of respondents reported an increase of 1-10 percent. This represents an increase from a survey taken in January in which 33.5 percent of respondents’ healthcare costs increased 11-20 percent.

In response, 64 percent of respondents said they would need to increase their employee’s contributions to offset the increased costs. This number is up 6 percent from January.

“Health care costs have been a major burden for businesses and they seem to be getting worse, not better,” said Bauer.

In addition to examining businesses’ employee needs, the survey sampled opinions about the strength of their individual businesses and the overall U.S. economy. While most businesses see the Wisconsin economy as stable — 61 percent of respondents say Wisconsin’s economic strength is “moderate” — they also believe it is slightly weaker than it was six months ago.

Respondents were less enthused about the direction of the country as a whole with 46 percent rating the nation’s economy as “weak” or “very weak,” an increase from January’s 37 percent rating. An economic strength of “moderate” was given by 45.5 percent of respondents.

Respondents were more positive about Wisconsin’s economic future than the country’s. The Wisconsin economy will experience moderate growth, claimed 46 percent of respondents. Contrastingly, only 21 percent of respondents thought the national economy would have moderate growth. Both of these numbers are down 8 and 18 percent from January, respectively.