In his inaugural address delivered in January 2011, Gov. Scott Walker declared that “Wisconsin is open for business.” Ray Allen, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, recently noted that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate now stands at 4.5 percent — a half percentage point below the national rate.
In general, do you think the past five years have borne out the governor’s words?
Ben Noffke, vice president of Noffke Roofing Co., Mequon: I think Wisconsin is not only open for business, but booming for building! You can’t help but drive by a construction job site today. Wisconsin’s unemployment may be at 4.5 percent, but I would estimate the construction segment of unemployment to be even less. I don’t know many construction companies not hiring, but there just is not enough able and willing individuals who are capable of passing a drug test.
Robert Dennik, vice president of VJS Construction Services: I don’t think, I know the construction has benefited from a better economy. If you look around the greater Milwaukee area there are more cranes in the sky then any one time in my memory. The union halls are thin and the ripple effect in the area on new-home sales, automobiles and trucks along with appliance purchases are the best they have been in years. Let’s keep it going!
John Schulze, director of legal and government affairs at the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin: Our members work closest with the Departments of Workforce Development, Natural Resources and Safety and Professional Services. Secretaries Allen, (Cathy) Stepp and (Dave) Ross should be lauded for helping create an environment where Wisconsin is “Open for Business.” However, five years ago, our members were struggling to find work, and now that the construction industry has bounced back, they are struggling to find workers. While the economic gains have been commendable, we will continue working to better prepare Wisconsin workers for available jobs in the skilled trades. This labor shortage is a serious problem that needs to be solved sooner rather than later.
David Turiciano, construction collections attorney and litigator at Turiciano Law: “U-6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part-time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers equals 8.3 percent. Still low, but the real number. Also, blacks are at twice the unemployment rate of whites.