EAU CLAIRE — As the unemployment rate continues to fall, it is spreading all sorts of positive news throughout the state. But it is also putting more pressure on businesses in the Chippewa Valley and throughout Wisconsin to find workers.
That was one of the messages delivered by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Friday at the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting Friday morning, in the Hawthorne Aviation Hangar at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.
Walker said the unemployment rate has dropped from 9.2 percent when he ran for office in 2010 to 4.4 percent, which he said was the lowest it has been in about a decade and a half. He also cited Wisconsin’s ranking for business desirability from Chief Executive magazine as rising from 41st in the nation to No. 11. He called that a remarkable turnaround, and credited business people such as the ones in attendance Friday.
“Here’s the headline: In 2016 there were more people employed in this state than there has ever been, and that’s thanks to all of you,” he said, noting that governments do not create jobs, they only create an environment for businesses to create jobs.
Among factors Walker cited as helping the business climate were: $4.5 billion in tax relief since 2010; average property and income taxes that are lower than when he took office; and freezing tuition for four consecutive years at University of Wisconsin campuses.
However he said there was one unintended consequence of a low unemployment rate, and it is the one thing he hears about most when he is in the Chippewa Valley. It is connected to figures showing that the state’s labor force participation rate is 68.8 percent, six percent higher than the national average.
“That is tremendous, unless you’re an employer looking to hire, and all throughout this valley I see help wanted signs,” Walker said. “I didn’t see them in 2010, and that’s great, but the challenge is not about jobs, jobs, jobs, but how to fill those jobs, jobs, jobs. We hear that every day.”
You have free articles remaining.
On a previous trip to the area he heard how an employer was unable to fill openings for five welding jobs, with a possibility of adding 7-8 more jobs if the first five could be filled. Walker said that scenario isn’t restricted to manufacturing, but is also found in the information technology, construction, transportation and health care fields, to name a few.
That is why Walker said the state has invested millions into its technical colleges, why it’s making education more affordable for certain types of students, and why it is working with the University of Wisconsin system. He praised the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for taking the lead in guaranteeing students a completion rate of four years if specific criteria are met.
“The one other thing we’re doing that I hope benefits all of you is that we can’t afford to have anybody on the sidelines. I don’t believe there should be any man or woman in this state who is physically and mentally capable of working, who isn’t required to be in the workforce.”
To that end, Walker said anyone looking for assistance, such as food stamps, is required to enroll in the state’s job training program, look for work five days a week and pass a drug test.
“Why? Because if you have basic job skills and can pass a drug test, I can find you a job in virtually every part of the state of Wisconsin,” he said. “The best (thing) is it’s not only good for all of you employers looking to hire, and for our taxpayers who want our tax dollars to be spent on people who are truly in need, but you know what it’s best for? The person.”
The governor said that the state isn’t doing people any favors by keeping them in these programs and under the control of the government.
“The American dream is that if you work hard and play by the rules, you don’t have to own the biggest company in town, but you’ll have a career to support yourself and your family and you can pass on to your children and their children a society that’s just a little bit better.”