Wisconsin employment improves, but more growth could be on the way

Wisconsin's jobs are up, but there are other reasons to be optimistic about the state's economy and employment trends.

In Wisconsin's private sector, the employment trends from the first half of 2015 were less than encouraging. According to The Capital Times, the state lost 11,100 private-sector jobs from February through June. However, the 12-month period ending in August showed prevailing growth, with the addition of 47,800 jobs in the private sector over that period. The improvement came on strong at the end of that segment: July saw an additional 9,100 jobs and August followed with 7,200 new jobs.

However, sheer job numbers don't necessarily indicate a healthy economy. That requires an assessment of wages, the age of the company and other metrics. In Wisconsin, job growth is certainly a good sign, but there are other indicators that the state's economic health can continue to improve.

Greater focus on startups could boost the economy
Often, articles touting the economic strength of a region point to the jobs created as the only stat that matters. But Mike Finger, executive director of Ignite Wisconsin, claims that these figures only show part of the story. In his column for The Wisconsin State Journal, Finger pointed out that startups are the real fuel in the economic engine. Entrepreneurs create new businesses, and even though their goal is to use as few resources as possible - meaning little hiring - the important part is their staying power.

According to a Kauffman Foundation study, "When it comes to job-creating power, it is not the size of the business that matters as much as it is the age. New and young companies are the primary source of job creation in the American economy."

Finger likened the measurement of an economy to two different viewpoints: Counting apples as a metaphor for job growth and planting apple trees as a measure of strength for the future. He argued that the best thing for the state is to plant more trees - to nurture more startups and small businesses as a way of ensuring future economic strength.

What do apples and economic health have in common?

Computer science fair emphasizes tech jobs, education
On October 1, University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted its annual Madison Area Computer Sciences Job Fair with the hope of uniting local technology companies and young, talented students preparing to enter the job market. It was the tenth year for the event and had the largest turnout yet, according to UW-Madison. The university noted that in 2014, Forbes named Madison the fifth-fastest growing tech market in the U.S., and events like these promote communication within the IT sphere between recruiters and potential candidates.

"The reason this job fair was founded was to build on the incredible IT presence that's been growing over the last decade in Madison and the surrounding area," explained computer sciences professor Barton Miller. "Throughout the afternoon, it's not just students talking to recruiters, but interviewers talking to interviewers from other companies. It builds a sense of community in the Madison-area IT world."

Building this camaraderie within the industry is a savvy move, especially in the current economic climate where the IT market is gaining steam.

"I have worked in the Wisconsin job market since 1999 and I can't remember there ever being a time when I have seen such a strong need for IT professionals," remarked Brian Kelley, Regional Director for Beacon Hill Technologies in the Midwest region. Clearly, now is the time to build up Madison's tech scene, with a wealth of companies looking to grow and expand their Information/Technology infrastructure.

As more tech jobs emerge and students opt for scientific fields, these types of industry-specific job fairs through universities can promote economic health and employment trends across the U.S.

Related Resources