Fall school plans worry business leaders

Posted on Aug 26, 2020 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive
Posted by of Insight Publications

As schools begin to open across the state, 43 percent of Wisconsin business leaders responding to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s fifth statewide COVID-19 economic impact survey believe school district plans will significantly impact workforce availability.

Another one-third of respondents were still unsure about the impact, said Jeffrey Sachse, interim director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services.

“This comes as most businesses report fewer than a quarter of their employees normally face child care needs with typical accommodations including scheduling changes or flexible hours,” he said. “This is poised to again be a significant issue as businesses generally are ill-equipped to offer other accommodations at the same time that the state’s child care infrastructure is strained beyond capacity.”

Businesses representing 39,705 employees across Wisconsin responded to the survey administered from Aug. 6 to 21. For the month of July 2020, they reported:

  • Income gains of $5.7 million
  • Inventory gains of $4.7 million
  • Wage and productivity gains of $2.5 million
  • Other financial losses of $1 million

“The August survey results again point to a business community that is recovering, though recovery slowed significantly from the June reopening,” Sachse said. “Employment gains also slowed despite a declining state unemployment rate, suggesting that firms are either unable to add staff or are hesitant to do so given ongoing uncertainties.”

Businesses similarly continue to express concerns regarding customer traffic and anticipate the need for additional rounds of financial assistance even as their interest in available programs diminishes.

The survey is a partnership of UW-Oshkosh, the state’s nine Regional Development Organizations and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. The September survey is scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 31.