July 2018 Unemployment at 2.9%

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St. Croix County’s July Unemployment Rate at 2.9%

On August 22nd, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced the preliminary July 2018 unemployment rates for Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the 32 cities with populations greater than 25,000 residents. St. Croix County’s rate was estimated at 2.9%. For comparison, St. Croix’s final rate for June was 3.2% and May’s final rate was 2.4%. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 2.9%.

DWD said preliminary unemployment rates for July declined or stayed the same in 69 of the 72 counties when compared to July 2017. Twenty-two counties experienced or tied their lowest July rate on record. The rates ranged from 2.3% in Sauk County to 7.7% in Menominee.

The July 2018 preliminary unemployment rates decreased or stayed the same in 31 of Wisconsin’s 32 municipalities with population bases of least 25,000 residents when compared to July 2017. Fifteen of the 32 largest municipalities experienced their lowest July unemployment rate on record. Rates ranged from 2.3% in Fitchburg to 4.9% in Racine.

The five counties with the lowest unemployment rate in July include Sauk (2.3%), followed by Dane (2.4%), Iowa (also at 2.4%), Lafayette (also at 2.4%), and Green (2.5%). Menominee County had the highest rate in July at 7.7%, followed by Iron (5.2%), Forest (4.9%), Adams (4.6%), and Langlade (4.4%).

St. Croix, Pierce, Polk, and Dunn counties comprise Wisconsin’s Greater St. Croix Valley. In addition to St. Croix referenced above, July’s preliminary rate in Polk was estimated at 2.9%, Pierce at 3.0%, and Dunn at 3.2%. The current rates are the same or lower in all four counties compared to the rates for July 2017.

St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the 16-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area. The July 2018 unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was estimated at 2.6%, which is lower than June’s final rate of 2.8%, but higher than May’s final rate of 2.3%. The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 3.5% in June 2017.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in July was estimated at 2.9%, which is the same as the final rate for June, but higher than the final rate of 2.8% for May. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 3.3%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in Minnesota in July was estimated at 3.0%, which is lower than the final rate of 3.1% for both June and May. Minnesota’s seasonally adjusted rate one year ago was 3.3%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in the U.S. for July was estimated at 3.9%, which is lower than June’s final rate of 4.0%, but higher than May’s final rate of 3.8%. One year ago the U.S. rate (seasonally adjusted) was estimated at 4.3%.

Wisconsin’s preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for July 2018 was estimated at 68.9%, which is the same as the final rate for both June and May. One year ago, Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate was 68.8%. The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for the U.S. in July was estimated at 62.9%, which is the same as the final rate for June but higher than May’s final rate of 62.7%. One year ago, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 62.7%.

July’s estimates are preliminary and are subject to revision within the next few weeks.

Packerland Embraces Ancient Viking Game


Packerland Embraces Ancient Viking Game


In the St. Croix Valley, neighbor may be pitted against neighbor when the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings play football twice a year. Of course there’s always the odd family who cheers for the Chicago Bears, further adding to the rivalries in the valley.

Green Bay fans may be unaware, but an ancient Viking game, now adapted as a lawn game, is growing in popularity right here in Packerland. In fact, nearby Eau Claire, Wisconsin lays claim as the game’s North American Capital.

The game? It’s kubb (rhymes with tube); also called Viking chess. Others describe it as a cross between bowling and horseshoes. Players on opposite sides of a small rectangular field toss wooden batons at their opponents’ blocks, or kubbs, and then try to knock over a single king piece in the center. Modern batons and blocks replaced the ancient game pieces a few centuries ago, said to be the skulls and femur bones of Viking enemies. Rather than shed blood, the marauding Vikings perhaps found civility and settled their differences by using skeletal remains instead of swords and clubs. Blessed are the so-called peacemakers.

Modern kubb is considered a social activity combining mental skill and physical strategy. Rivals soon turn into friends, leading to a cold beer or two during and after the contests. This can also be traced to the ancient Vikings. The mental image of a gritty Viking with a mug of grog in one hand a thigh bone in the other has been replaced by today’s players opting for micro-brews and sun visors. Yes, society has come a long way.

Back to Eau Claire. Mr. Eric Anderson is credited with bringing kubb to Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley. He picked it up during a visit to Sweden followed by a grad school stint in the same country a few years later. Anderson came to Eau Claire in 2007 as a planner with a quasi-governmental organization. The Anderson’s played the obscure game of kubb as a way to meet people and then started the first tournament in the U.S., attracting 15 teams and 35 players in August 2007. Eau Claire now regularly hosts the U.S. National Kubb Championship. In mid-July, the 12th annual national championship was contested, drawing 128 teams and over 450 players from 12 states and four countries. It is one of the largest tournaments outside of Europe. Anderson called it “world class kubb.” The economic impact of the national tournament in Eau Claire is estimated at around $160,000.

The U.S. National Kubb Championship is governed by an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit entity. Tournament revenue is divided up among several charities. Anderson continues to serve as a tournament director for the U.S. Championship. Kubb is now taught in schools and Eau Claire is home to the largest weekly kubb league in the world. In conjunction with the U.S. Championship, Kid Kubb (i.e. the U.S. Junior Kubb Championship), open to players 12 and younger, was also contested. Kid Kubb is the largest kubb tournament for kids in the world. Anderson also launched WisconsinKubb.com; USAKubb.org and Kubbnation Magazine as media outlets for the lawn sport.

Packers, Vikings, or occasional Bears. There are differences aplenty. Perhaps kubb can supplement bag toss games or serve as a social break at halftimes. If St. Croix Valley residents see an odd looking lawn game in a front yard or neighborhood park, it’s just kubb. And it rhymes with tube. Maybe there’s a St. Croix Valley championship in someone’s future. The economic impact is secondary. Meeting new residents and visitors come first. Followed by Skol, of course.

Early Signs of Autumn in the Valley


Early Signs of Autumn in the Valley


A tired lawn, eight-foot high field corn, football training camps, and receding lake levels all point to a fleeting summer in the St. Croix Valley. It’s been another good run for summer and many days of hot and humid weather remain. To most, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, meaning autumn is near. The 90ish days of September through November may be the best season in the St. Croix Valley.

The Saint Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance is a two-state resource serving the valley since 1994 in the promotion of tourist-related activities. According to lore, Alliance bylaw signatures were witnessed by Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson on a boat in the approximate middle of the St. Croix River. Both recognized the value of working together for the benefit of border communities from St. Croix Falls-Taylors Falls to Prescott-Hastings.

The Alliance publishes an annual visitor guide of activities, including arts and culture, bicycling, motorcycling, parks, and tours. Many of them are free. Others require the parting of a few dollars from a wallet or purse. A return on investment may include smiles, friendships, and memories.

Here’s a random list of Alliance member activities, akin to a Top 10 list, but skewed toward the Wisconsin side of the river.

1. Art on the Kinni (River Falls), September 8th                  (www.RiverFallsCAB.org)
2. Apple Splash Festival (Somerset) September 15-16 (www.SomersetChamber.org)
3. River Falls Bacon Bash (River Falls) September 15-16 (www.RiverFallsBaconBash.com)
4. New Richmond Heritage Days (New Richmond) September 21-23 (www.NewRichmondChamber.com)
5. Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival (Hudson), September 22-23 (www.DiscoverHudsonWI.com)
6. Western Wisconsin Pottery Tour (River Falls), September 22-23 (www.WesternWisconsinPotteryTour.com)
7. Main Street Art Crawl (River Falls), October 19                (www.RiverFallsCAB.org)
8. Christmas Tour of Homes & Craft Sale (Hudson), December 16-18 (www.DiscoverHudsonWI.com)
9. Tie: River Dazzle (River Falls), November 23 (www.RFChamber.org); Hometown Holiday (New Richmond), November 29 (www.NewRIchmondChamber.com); and Candlelight Stroll (Hudson), November 30 (www.DiscoverHudsonWI.com)
10. Tie: Main Street restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries-taprooms (every community). Dates are ongoing. Support independent business owners and entrepreneurs!

Mark your calendars early. Download your copy of the 2018 visitors guide from the Alliance website, www.saintcroixriver.com, under the “Welcome” tab. And enjoy autumn in the St. Croix Valley.