APPLETON, WI -- 76 Miller Electric employees are without jobs, tonight.
The Appleton-based welding and manufacturing company has a workforce of 1,500 plant and office employees.
Miller Electric spokespeople say the layoffs were immediate, and did not legally require advanced notice.
The layoffs come as companies across the country see slowdowns in growth caused by low oil and gas prices. In an official statement, company spokespeople say:
“While the current low gas prices are good for consumers, there’s a ripple effect for manufacturers who serve this industry. This and related softness in other end markets we are in, causes us to make workforce adjustments to reflect the lower demand and better position us for the future.”
On a side note, U.S. crude oil prices closed today for the first time above $40 since March 22nd.
Regional employment experts say they're hopeful the Fox Valley's need for skilled laborers will help absorb this blow to the workforce.
"I'm convinced that Northeastern Wisconsin will be able to absorb these people," says Fox Valley Workforce Development Board CEO Paul Stelter, "and help them move forward with good opportunities as they move forward with their career."
Stelter says losing a job can be traumatic. But he's confident that a manufacturing skills gap in the region will put many of these employees back to work.
"The skills, the background, the experience that these folks have," says Stelter, "those are the types of skills that are in high demand right now in the area."
But some are saying more needs to be done to keep these kinds of jobs here.
"My husband has been laid off before being a sheet metal journeyman," says State Rep. Amanda Stuck ([D] - Appleton), "and we know how scary that is when you get that notice right away... figuring out, 'how are we going to pay the bills?'"
Rep. Stuck says oil market fluctuations are unavoidable. But she says lawmakers could be doing more to save these jobs.
"If we do a better job of investing in our infrastructure to keep employers here," says Stuck, "if we look at other ways to help employees get the training, and things they need, to make them more competitive, so it's easier for employers to stay here."
Miller Electric spokespeople say the layoffs are affecting 5 percent of their overall North American workforce.