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Wisconsin on track to lose a high number of working age adults


These days it’s harder to find a business in the Northwoods that isn’t hiring than one that is.

That need for workers is only going to get worse according to a recent report from Forward Analytics.

It’s basing the workforce loss on trends seen over the last 30 years. Net migration into Wisconsin was down nearly a third between 2010 and 2020 compared to the prior decade and 75% from the 1990s.

If those trends continue Wisconsin’s 25- to 64-year-old population will decline by 130,000.

“The magnitude surprised me. We’ve been watching this for quite a while. All of the numbers that we had up until the 2020 census, the number between census are all estimates, they do the best they can. They were pointing to our workforce roughly being flat over the next decade,” said Dale Knapp, Director of Forward Analytics.

That kind of workforce loss would be a blow to the state’s economy.

Knapp says it would likely lead to small business closures, but he believes there’s a route for Wisconsin to draw workers in.

The data shows a lot of young people will leave the state after high school or college for big cities like Chicago, Denver, or San Francisco.

But in the 30 to 50 age group, or what Knapp refers to as the family formation years, people are moving to Wisconsin and very little are moving out.

Knapp says it’s starting to wane, but it’s still the state’s strongest group. And that’s where he believes the state should be focusing its efforts.

“Somehow, we need to get back to targeting that age group. When you look at that age group and what they’re looking for in a family formation, family years. They’re looking for good schools. We have that. They’re looking for places with low crime. We have that. A relatively low cost of living,” said Knapp.

Some of it Knapp thinks is a rebranding issue. Most people outside the Midwest associate Wisconsin with cold winters, the Packers, and cheese.

He also thinks it might take some financial incentives to motivate more people to move to the state.

You can view the full report here.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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