Milwaukee manufacturers more optimistic about 2024 than other businesses, survey finds

Milwaukee-area manufacturers are more optimistic about 2024 than other businesses in the region, according to the latest Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce survey. 

Seventy-one percent of surveyed manufacturers expect sales to increase this year, while 13% expect sales to fall. By comparison, 54% of non-manufacturers predict higher sales in 2024 and 3% expect sales to decline. 

Also, 52% of manufacturers expect to add jobs this year, while 45% expect no change and 3% expect fewer jobs. For all other businesses, 38% expect to add jobs, 49% expect no change and 13% expect job declines, according to the survey. 

Across all respondents, sales expectations for this year are lower than at this point in 2023, MMAC found. Sixty-one percent of businesses forecast higher real sales for 2024, compared to 70% at the start of last year. 

Similarly, 61% of respondents expect profits to increase this year, just below the 63% from last year’s first-quarter survey. And 10% predict profits to fall this year, while 29% don’t expect them to change. 

“In percentage terms, expectations are tepid for 2024’s first quarter, but optimism polled higher for the year as a whole,” said Bret Mayborne, MMAC’s vice president of economic research. “That optimism provides hope for better growth dynamics as the year moves forward.” 

Businesses with 100 or more workers are more likely to predict higher sales for the year, MMAC found, with 75% compared to 47% of small employers. 

Following last year’s relatively slow job growth — 0.4%, compared to 2.2% in 2022 — the survey suggests “mixed employment prospects” for this year. Forty-seven percent don’t expect job levels to change, 44% expect job gains in their local workforces and 9% expect job declines, the survey shows. By comparison, 53% of respondents at the start of 2023 had expected job gains for the year. 

And as a result of the slow job growth, expectations about future wage and salary increases have diminished slightly. The average change in per-person employee pay is forecast to increase 3.6% over the coming year — down from the 4.2% annualized increase predicted three months ago, according to MMAC. 

See the full survey.

–By Alex Moe