Human Capital & Careers

Labor Shortage Hits Foxconn’s U.S. Plant Project

The Taiwanese firm denies a report that it is recruiting Chinese workers to fill a staffing gap at its Wisconsin factory.
Matthew HellerNovember 7, 2018

The tight U.S. labor market may be complicating Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn’s much-heralded plan to build a factory in Wisconsin.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Foxconn has been looking to transfer some of its Chinese workforce to staff the plant due to a shortage of qualified local personnel.

“It’s very difficult to find skilled labor in our market,” Loretta Olson, who owns an Express Employment Professionals staffing office near the planned plant, told the Journal.

Foxconn denied the Journal’s report, saying “the assertion that we are recruiting Chinese personnel to staff our Wisconsin project is untrue. Our recruitment priority remains Wisconsin first and we continue to focus on hiring and training workers from throughout Wisconsin.”

The company has promised the state it would invest $10 billion and build a 22-million-square-foot liquid-crystal display panel plant, hiring 13,000 employees, primarily factory workers along with some engineers and business support positions.

But Gizmodo said that “even if the WSJ report is incorrect about bringing workers from China, it’s still going to be tough to find the roughly 13,000 employees Foxconn needs to make the manufacturing plant operate properly.”

At 3.0% in September, Wisconsin’s jobless rate is well below the national average, which hit 3.7% that month — itself a 49-year low.

“Labor shortages are a national challenge,” the WSJ said, noting that in September, employers nationwide had more than a million more unfilled job openings.

Average time to fill vacant job positions reached a record high of 32.3 working days in September, according to University of Chicago labor economist Steven Davis, and it took more than 40 days to fill jobs in the tech-heavy information industry.

Wisconsin pledged $3 billion in tax and other “performance-based” incentives for Foxconn if it opted to open the factory in Wisconsin. The company must meet hiring, wage and investment targets by various dates to receive most of those benefits.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which negotiated the deal with Foxconn, said it was still “confident Foxconn will meet the job and capital investment requirements of its contract.”

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