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Desperate to find workers, desperate to find a job: Where is the labor disconnect?

looking to hire
Posted at 5:44 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 11:37:13-04

MILWAUKEE — As businesses struggle to find people to work, others who are looking for jobs say it is a struggle to find employment.

"I have applied to over 250, coming up to 300 jobs,” said Matt Blue.

The father of two lost his job five months ago. His company went through a reorganization and Blue’s position was eliminated. Since he is the only breadwinner for his family of four, he says he cannot take an entry-level job and still support his children.

"I've been willing to be flexible on my compensation to try to accommodate jobs that, again, titles that I've had 20 years earlier in my career. Unfortunately, that still hasn't worked,” said Blue.

looking to hire
Momo Mee posts a sign looking for workers

At the same time, places like Momo Mee in Walker's Point have been desperate to find workers. The owner, Tony Ho, says he had to delay opening their patio dining until a week ago because they didn't have enough staff.

“The last few months have been very, very difficult and challenging to find workers,” said Ho.

Momo Mee bartender
Tony Ho, owner of Momo Mee, watches a bartender make up a drink.

At Staffworks, an agency that places people in manufacturing jobs, general manager Scott Leszczynski says they are seeing the same thing.

"I have been in the industry since 1986, been with my current company since 1993 and I have never seen anything like this. There are just far more job openings than people looking for work,” said Leszczynski.

The latest numbers show in Wisconsin that the number of people searching for work has been dropping steadily.

In May of last year, there were 267,529 people who filed an unemployment claim.

In April of 2021, that number fell to 84,416. And the most recent unemployment claims show the number has gone even lower, at 65,543. So why are some people struggling to find work?

Poster image - 2021-06-09T182239.439.jpg

"To me, it's just a mathematics equation that, of course, some of the more entry-level positions, there are more of. But once you get further up and when you're a single breadwinner in a home like I was previously, that's what I think the numbers - it's getting more challenging as you go,” said Blue.

A waitress grabs something behind the bar at Momo Mee in Milwaukee.

The latest national numbers show there are not as many jobs in the country as there were before the pandemic hit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country is down 7.6 million jobs.

Places like Staffworks say until things balance out, their manufacturers are just trying to do without.

“Everyone is feeling, everyone understands and we are all just trying to work together and be creative,” said Leszczynski.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes says right now they are working to connect employers to employees:

“We have an opportunity to match underskilled and lower paid workers with higher paid, more family sustaining jobs.

By helping these workers gain access to things like affordable childcare, reliable transportation and stable housing, along with the right training, we can bring Wisconsinites off the sidelines and into the workforce.

We have teams at DWD and WEDC working together to make sure we are connecting employees and employers.”

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