WED AM News: Milwaukee labor market recovery lagging national average; COVID cases ‘inching up and not surging,’ MCW leader says

— Milwaukee’s labor market recovery is lagging the national average, according to an MMAC executive. 

Susan Koehn, vice president of talent and industry partnerships for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, yesterday said the region has yet to see employment or workforce participation levels return to pre-pandemic levels. 

Her presentation included a graph showing the Milwaukee area has recovered about 79,400 jobs from the pandemic dip, representing nearly 70 percent of jobs lost. That leaves about 34,400 jobs remaining before the area’s workforce has fully recovered, the graph showed. 

“We’re still seeing high quit rates, which earned the last few months the name ‘the great resignation,’” she said. “Overall, quit rates tend to be balanced out by strong hiring rates, and we’re starting to see evidence that workers who’ve been on the sidelines in higher proportions throughout the pandemic — like working mothers, early retirees — are starting to come back to the workforce.” 

Of the most in-demand jobs posted in the Milwaukee region, she noted registered nurses top the list with nearly 7,500 unique postings in the last six months. The “posting intensity” is 2-to-1, meaning each job opening is typically posted in at least two difference places, she said. 

This ratio was “much higher” last year, suggesting the region’s “nursing shortage could be on the road to improvement,” Koehn said. 

She pointed to numerous job openings for positions such as sales, retail, hospitality and management, reflecting increased consumer demand in the service sector. Koehn also noted seven of the top 10 jobs posted are “difficult if not impossible” to perform remotely. 

That’s an issue, she said, because “flexibility is the new non-negotiable” for many workers.  

“In fact, one in three employees say they would forego a pay raise to have more control over their work location and hours,” she said. 

She also said regional talent development initiatives should focus on jobs projected to be in higher demand in the coming years, pointing to careers in patient-focused health care, business and finance, as well as technology. 

— The head of the Medical College of Wisconsin notes COVID-19 cases in the state are “inching up and not surging up” while hospitalizations remain low. 

MCW President and CEO Dr. John Raymond yesterday said the state is “in a holding pattern” as some indicators are once again showing increased virus activity. His remarks came during a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce webinar.

“The numbers are up, but they’re probably up more than the actual case counts because there’s been a delay in reporting cases through DHS,” he said, referring to the state health department. “So I want to make sure people don’t overreact to the unfavorable trends we’re seeing here.” 

The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases has increased to 640 cases per day after falling to 316 cases per day on March 23, the Department of Health Services site shows. That’s after about two months of declining case numbers following the peak of the omicron variant surge in January. 

Meanwhile, the percent positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has risen to 4.5 percent after reaching a recent low of 2.7 percent last month. At the peak in January, that number was 29.4 percent. 

Raymond explained a delay in reporting resulted in cases that happened “a week or two ago” being logged in the last five days or so. 

“We had a very significant number of cases reported last Thursday and Friday and over the weekend, that seems to be a significant jump over what we were seeing before,” he said. “Those seem to be coming down now, but in aggregate they still appear to be inching upward a little bit.” 

Raymond also said wastewater monitoring in southeastern Wisconsin has identified a “slight upward trend” in COVID-19 activity in the region, though hospitalizations statewide remain “stable to trending favorably.” 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows just 147 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in the state, including 27 intensive care patients. Both of those numbers are the lowest they’ve been since July 2021. 

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— The head of the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board says President Biden’s move to allow E15 gasoline sales this summer will benefit corn growers and ethanol producers in the state. 

“We applaud the administration seeing the value of biofuels being added into the gas supply to lower the cost burden on the average consumer,” Tom Gillis, the group’s president, said yesterday in an interview. “It’s the highest octane, lowest carbon, cheapest fuel on the market. So we’re really excited he’s seeing that value and decided to bring it to the table for the entire summer.” 

He explained this summer would have been the first in which E15 gasoline — which contains 15 percent ethanol — would have been banned. Biden visited an ethanol plant in Iowa yesterday to announce the summertime ban being lifted. The move is aimed at reducing gas prices amid rising inflation. 

“E15 has been available all winter, it’s available right now. This was going to be a change to take away E15,” Gillis said. “The past summers, it’s been available nationwide. And it’s important to remember that every vehicle on the road manufactured since 2001 can run E15, no problems at all.” 

Wisconsin Corn Growers Association President Mark Hoffmann said in a statement that allowing E15 sales this summer “not only ensures a low-cost fuel source but also improves our energy security.”

According to a fact sheet from the White House, purchasing E15 gasoline “can save a family 10 cents per gallon of gas on average.” E15 gasoline is currently sold at about 2,300 gas stations around the country, the fact sheet says. 

Gillis agreed the move will likely lead to lower gas prices. 

“The entire market complex is based on futures, so the canceling of the pipelines, the ban on drilling in federal-owned lands — that’s a future perception that there will not be as much supply available,” he said. “The biofuels industry has enough biofuels in storage to replace all the crude oil all the countries were importing from Russia. So the perception now is there won’t be a shortage because of the crude oil bans from Russian oil.” 

See the White House fact sheet here: 

— A Waukesha County judge has ruled the DNR lacked the authority to require the cleanup of hazardous materials such as PFAS because the agency has failed to properly go through the rulemaking process.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren accused the agency of operating on “a whim and a fancy” as it tried to regulate PFAS.

He sided with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and Oconomowoc leather cleaning company Leather-Rich Inc. in their challenge of the Department of Natural Resources’ power to regulate the chemical.

In the initial complaint, the plaintiffs argued the DNR “freely” changed the definition of hazardous substances and created new policies related to “emerging contaminants” — including PFAS — without public input or legislative oversight.

Bohren agreed the DNR is required to go through a rulemaking process in order to establish acceptable thresholds for hazardous substances, which it did not do.

Bohren also said the DNR seems to think it has “virtually unlimited authority” to regulate hazardous substances in the air, water and soil.

“The DNR seems to operate on a whim and a fancy to make a determination based upon what they know, or what they think they know, and then to apply it to the responsible parties involved in the remediation process,” Bohren said.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a series of chemicals found in industrial and everyday products, most notably firefighting foam. They are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down easily in the environment and are linked to several diseases and cancers in humans.

Assistant Attorney General Gabe Johnson-Karp, representing the Natural Resources Board, requested Bohren stay the order to avoid “significant regulatory uncertainty” with the agency likely to appeal.

Bohren called the request “ridiculous,” but agreed to stay the effect of the order to allow time for the DNR to file a motion by May 12.

Bohren said the department has a responsibility to determine what hazardous substances are and to do so before parties get involved in the remediation process.

See more at 

— DATCP and WEDC have announced the creation of the Wisconsin Agricultural Export Advisory Council to oversee efforts to boost ag product exports. 

The council is linked to the Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports, which aims to increase exports of dairy, meat, crop, a​nd other agricultural products by 25 percent by 2026. Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill into law late last year allocating $5 million to the effort. 

According to a release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and DATCP, the council will include trade experts from the two agencies, state lawmakers, ag organizations and businesses. The council will meet twice per year, with its first meeting planned for May 4. 

“This council will not only help provide strategic review of the WIAE plan, but also promote WIAE activities, amplify stakeholder export initiatives, and provide a platform to encourage collaboration among the industry,” DATCP Secretary Randy Romanski said in the release. 

See the release; 

— This week’s Wisconsin Tomorrow “action accelerator” in La Crosse will focus on the importance of early child care and education. 

Several expert panels will discuss the economic impact of related efforts, employer programs, the small business perspective and more. 

The Thursday event is being hosted by the 7 Rivers Alliance and Competitive Wisconsin, with co-hosts UW-La Crosse, the Wisconsin Counties Association and Western Technical College. is also involved in the event.

It’s being held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lunda Center. Attendees can register to join in person or virtually.

Register to attend here:

Register to join virtually here:


# Wisconsin judge: DNR lacks authority to regulate PFAS

# Wisconsin coalition vies for $100M grant to add thousands of forest industry jobs

# Report: Funding for state financial aid on the decline



– State congressional Reps. pushing efforts to protect mink farms

– Biden waiving ethanol rule in bid to lower gasoline prices


– Historic designation for former hospital could thwart UWM’s plans

– Irgens ready to start work on its office development at Innovation Campus


– Report: Wisconsin financial aid funding lags other states, straining students and workforce


– Snow, saturation keeping farmers from the fields


– Type 2 diabetes on the rise among Wisconsin children

– Wisconsin sees sharp increase in Type 2 diabetes among children, according to UW Health Kids data

– Dane County Jail implements additional opioid-addiction treatment effort

– Froedtert Health partnering with Carbon Health on eastern Wisconsin clinics


– Three new Janesville TIF deals aim to boost south-side industrial buildings, job creation


– Waukesha County judge sides with WMC in case challenging state’s authority over PFAS cleanups

– Wisconsin can’t force businesses to clean up ‘forever chemicals,’ judge rules


– Former Fisher Barton CEO named president and CEO of Tailored Label Products


– ‘We’re just trying to live’: Trans youth, families in Wisconsin struggle in contentious political environment


– Revised high-rise concept coming for downtown Milwaukee Goll House site

– Kohl’s sells a non-HQ office in Menomonee Falls, relocates 500 employees

– Kohl’s sells former Customer Service & Operations Center building

– Irgens buys UWM Innovation Campus land where it is planning two office buildings


– Franchiser of Pet Supplies Plus, Sylvan Learning submits bid for Kohl’s: Reuters


– Wisconsin health insurance agency sponsors Brewers as it expands into Milwaukee area


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