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Looking for a bright spot in manufacturing and construction? We found it

By Marie Rohde

The forecast for business environment for the fourth quarter is lukewarm, and construction and manufacturing always lags the rest of the economy, says Bret Mayborne of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

“Manufacturing and construction continue to decline, but the rate has slowed,” according to Mayborne, MMAC economic research director. “We’re still a ways off, but maybe we’ll see some improvement in the next six months.”

The MMAC survey indicates that the majority of local companies envision sales and profit gains for the fourth quarter and said they are more likely to predict job gains rather than losses. But the optimism was less than was expressed in the third-quarter survey.

He said the survey does not support a double-dip recession but suggests the pace of the economic recovery will continue to be sluggish.

Overall, the job situation in the Milwaukee metro area has improved considerably during 2010, he said. While the year-over-year job losses have continued, the rate of decline has moved from 4.6 percent in January to 0.3 percent in August. That suggests that year-over-year employment gains may be nearing, he said.

Manufacturers are more optimistic than non-manufacturers, and there was no difference between large businesses than small, the survey found.

Salary and wage expectations remain low with employers predicting a 1.7 percent per employee increase over the next 12 months, down from a 2.1 percent increase forecast three months ago.

The Business Outlook Survey, conducted by the MMAC, contains responses from 145 local firms.

Marie Rohde is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. She’s a glass-half-full type of gal.

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