The Oshkosh economy is performing well and sits in a strong position in the marketplace, based on the results of the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce 2019 Business Outlook Survey. The organization released the results in advance of Tuesday’s Economic Outlook Breakfast.
Employment remained strong in 2018, with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development reporting a 2.3 percent unemployment rate for Oshkosh in December 2018. The national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.
“The results of the Oshkosh Chamber’s Annual Business Outlook Survey, a barometer that we use to gauge the degree of confidence of business leaders, is further indication that local businesses are bullish on what the economy holds for 2019,” Oshkosh Chamber President and CEO John Casper said in a release.
Of the local CEOs and business owners who participated in the survey, 64 percent reported that sales increased in 2018 over the previous year, 65 percent indicated that profits were up, and 72 percent increased wages. This past year, 58 percent of reporting companies added staff to their payrolls.
In 2018, 66 percent of the respondents said their companies met or exceeded profitability expectations. Those companies missing the mark on profitability expectations cited higher operating costs and sales shortfall, along with increased competition, as the lead factors. In forecasting sales for 2019, 85 percent expect sales to outperform the previous year’s level, and 71 percent anticipate adding employees.
Tempering the good news, business leaders report that finding qualified workers remains a challenge, with 47 percent indicating they have job openings that are unfilled. This could become an obstacle to economic growth in the years to come.
Manufacturers plan to increase their raw material inventories in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same quarter one year ago, according to 70 percent of Oshkosh-based manufacturers. In the first quarter of 2019, 76 percent of retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers anticipate higher volume of finished goods inventory over 2018 fourth quarter levels. These are indications of an expected sales volume increase in the months to come.
Many local CEOs believe that the business climate has improved, with 60 percent indicating the state is heading in the right direction on this measure. However, this is down from the 84 percent of the respondents in 2018.
CEOs indicated that legislative measures should be taken to improve their business and the state’s business climate. They said the top three public policy issues facing Wisconsin are increasing health care costs, the labor shortage/the lack of qualified applicant and the current tax climate.