Policy: Labor

Retirements may cause labor shortage in Wisconsin

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News,Business,Labor,Wisconsin

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A coming wave of baby boomer retirements could create a labor shortage severe enough to hamper economic development in Wisconsin, according to economists and a new study from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Baby boomer retirements are expected to have more impact in Wisconsin than in many states because the population is older than the national average, Gannett Wisconsin Media reported (http://gbpg.net/Rl1owR ) on Monday. The portion of the population over age 65 will grow from 14 percent to 24 percent by 2040, while the portion of workers — those ages 20 to 64 — remains about the same.

Job growth tends to match increases in the working-age population, so Wisconsin is likely to see few new jobs through 2040, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance report said.

"Employers really haven't experienced labor shortages to the degree that we're expecting," said Jeff Sachse, an economist with the state Department of Workforce Development. "The labor force is essentially going to be flat, and basically what we're going to see is an employer base that's going to struggle to find a sufficient amount of workers to remain in operation, much less to expand."

Sachse said there's been a lot of talk about the need to train workers for jobs, but relatively little attention has been paid to a potential lack of workers.

Northeast Wisconsin is expected to see the most significant labor shortages, while counties near Milwaukee and Madison should be least affected.

A shrinking working-age population is likely to reduce state revenue since Social Security and some other retirement income are not taxable.

"Either we're going to have to adjust how we spend as a state and how much we support people in retirement, or we're going to have to find a way to grow to a point that we can still continue to give the services we've grown to expect," said state Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican and co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

Wisconsin's median age was 38.4 in 2010, compared to 37.7 nationally. By 2040, Wisconsin's median age is expected to increase to 42.4, two years older than the national average.

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Information from: Press-Gazette Media, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com

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