Local employment strongest in 18 years

As the summer progresses, southeastern Wisconsin employers have gone into high gear to find qualified job applicants.

Some have even upped their wages and benefits in hopes of luring employees they need to perform production, engineering, sales and even health care duties.

Last month, job fairs and hiring events attracted more job seekers. In Kenosha and Racine counties, heavy hiring helped to drive unemployment rates down even further.

In Kenosha County, the jobless rate is 4.1 percent, 1.1 percent below 5.2 percent reported for the same month a year ago.

In the city of Kenosha, the rate was 4.5 percent, down 1.2 percent from last year’s 5.7 percent, according to statistics released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

“It’s an exciting time because so many people are hiring,” Kenosha County Job Center Manager Doug Bartz said. “We are seeing and talking to companies regularly, and the general theme has been ‘we need people who are available to work.’ Most of the time we are seeing that — if the candidate is job-ready — they are getting hired. Jobs are available and it is across most industries.”

Even more jobs are coming.

Earlier this week, Amazon announced it will conduct a special Amazon Jobs Day on Wednesday to hire “hundreds” of employees for its distribution centers in Kenosha. Taiwan-based Foxconn also announced it would locate a 1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in the region.

Just as private-sector employers have had a more difficult time finding available, qualified job candidates, the crunch is also felt in the public sector as well.

The competition for skilled labor talent has put pressure on the public sector, noted Steve Stanczak, Kenosha’s director of human resources. “Competition is acute. We’ve had a difficult time finding engineers, skilled tradesmen as well as managerial personnel.”

Two years ago, the city approved new compensation levels in an effort to successfully recruit staff.

“It’s certainly a buyers market,” Stanczak said. He noted the city may have to rebrand itself to attract the people the city needs. “If you go into the high schools, public sector jobs are not high on their list. It’s not one that seems exciting.”

The Racine County job market is heating up too. According to the state DWD, the largest 12-month decline was 1.3 percent in Racine County, where the rate was 4.2 percent in June. In the city of Racine, the rates was 5.1 percent, significantly down from the 7.0 percent rate reported for the same month a year ago.

Wisconsin’s overall 3.1 percent unemployment rate for June is the lowest rate statewide since October 1999.Bartz attributes some of the boost in jobs availability to the partnership efforts of County Executive Jim Kreuser, the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, Gateway Technical College and the workforce board that covers Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties. He said the partners are working hard to help match companies to the available workforce.

“We encourage all — both employers and job seekers — to utilize www.jobcenterofwisconsin.com,” Bartz said. “The technology available to match and do some keyword searches has developed greatly and creates an easier environment to match those looking for employment with those hiring.”

Read the entire story at the Kenosha News.

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