Madison worker shortage is creating opportunities for students

Madison worker shortage is creating opportunities for students

Sydney Jezik, News Editor

Thanks to a shrinking workforce, the current Madison-area unemployment rate is deceptively low. However, many businesses are in want of employees. As such teenagers—high school students—can find increasing job opportunity in the Madison area.

A quick drive through the Madison area offers views of hundreds of businesses. Many bear bright signs with customizable lettering, designed to advertise and eventually lure in customers. Usually. Recently students may have noticed that many, if not most, of these signs have begun to feature “Now Hiring” or similar words, rather than regular good or service advertisement.

However, over the past few years the Madison area has reported record-low numbers for the unemployment rate, at around 2.8%. Except many businesses, including the Greenway Station McDonalds, are closing their doors or limiting hours because of a lack of employees. Others, like Target, have raised their starting wages from $10/hour to $13/hour, yet still lack employees.

What is going on?

The workforce is shrinking. Students who have taken AP Macroeconomics (taught by instructor Aaron McDonough—thanks, Mr. McDonough, for the help in writing this article) may realize that the workforce is the number of employable citizens. Citizens under or over a certain age, or not seeking employment, are not counted as members of the workforce and therefore do not figure into the unemployment rate. This means that many high-school age students do not count as members of the technically described workforce. But the workforce is aging as a whole. Between 2010 and 2025, the 65-years-old-and-up population in Wisconsin will have increased by two thirds, while the working-age population is expected to remain flat. By 2023, that older part of the population is expected to outnumber 18-year-olds for the first time.

This allows high-school students to make up the difference, and receive more money than before the worker shortage began. Wages rising at nearby places like Papa Murphy’s, Target, McDonalds, Subway and more lead to more desirable positions nearby. Further, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers is currently in discussions with the state legislature to raise the Wisconsin minimum wage to $15/hr.

For students seeking part-time employment—it’s a good time to be looking.

“I like having a job because it gives me spending money so I can buy stuff and do things with my friends,” said junior Emma Nelson.

“I have a job so I have money to go out with friends and pay for college,” said senior Kailee Willers. “My job needs more employees because we don’t have enough people to work all of our hours.”

However, many working-age students choose not to get jobs because they put other commitments first. Yours truly gave up working for the spring semester to focus on academics and AP exams.

“Sports are a very big commitment to me,” said sophomore Riley Fackrell, “so I decided when my sports season were completely over [in the summer] I would get a job…. I have considered [internships].”

“I don’t have a job because it’s not important to me right now,” said junior Samuel Jezik. “I care more about getting good grades so I can do well in college, and having a fun time as a teenager with sports. Working just isn’t a priority right now.”

“Many students in Waunakee don’t have jobs because either they aren’t 16 and can’t drive yet, or their parents [can provide for their college expenses] or hanging out with friends,” said Willers.

Currently, Waunakee’s Piggly Wiggly and McDonalds are hiring. In Madison, businesses like FedEx, Target, Café Zupas, McDonalds, Culver’s and other high-traffic businesses are seeking part-time employees for wages starting at $8 or higher.