August 2019 Unemployment

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

On September 25th, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced the preliminary August 2019 unemployment rates for Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the 33 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 in July was 3.0% and June’s final rate was 3.2%. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 2.8%.

DWD said preliminary unemployment rates from July to August declined or remained the same in 61 of the 72 counties. The rates ranged from 2.5% in Dane to 13.4% in Menominee.

August’s 2019 preliminary unemployment rates declined or stayed the same in 26 of Wisconsin’s 33 largest municipalities from July to August. Rates ranged from 2.4% in Fitchburg to 5.8% in Racine.

The five counties with the lowest unemployment rate in August include Dane and Iowa at 2.5%, Door and Sauk at 2.6%, and Green, Lafayette, Monroe, Sheboygan, and Vernon at 2.7%. Menominee County had the highest rate in August at 13.4%, followed by Iron (5.9%), Bayfield (4.9%), and Marinette and Ashland at 4.8%.

St. Croix, Pierce, Polk, and Dunn counties comprise Wisconsin’s Greater St. Croix Valley. In addition to St. Croix’s rate of 2.9%, August’s preliminary rate in Pierce was also 2.9%, followed by Polk at 3.1% and Dunn at 3.3%.

St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the 15-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area. The August 2019 unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was estimated at 2.9% which is lower than July’s final rate of 3.1% and June’s final rate of 3.3%. The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 2.5% in August 2018.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in August was estimated 3.1%, ending a streak of eighteen consecutive months the rate was at or below 3.0%. August’s rate is higher than July’s final rate of 3.0% and June’s final rate of 2.9%. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 3.0%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in Minnesota in August was estimated at 3.3% which is lower than July’s final rate of 3.4% and is the same as June’s final rate of 3.3.%. Minnesota’s seasonally-adjusted rate one year ago was 2.8%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in the U.S. for August was estimated at 3.7%, which is the same as the final rates for July and June. One year ago, the U.S. rate (seasonally adjusted) was estimated at 3.9%.

Wisconsin’s preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for August was estimated at 67.2%, which is the same as the final rates for July and June. 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 August was estimated at 63.2%, which is higher than July’s final rate of 63.0% and June’s final rate of 62.9%. One year ago, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 62.7%.

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

April 2017 Unemployment table
April 2017 Unemployment Comparison
April 2017 Participation Rate

The New Buzz: Livability


The New Buzz: Livability


St. Croix’s economic development guy remains a fast talker but feels slightly older with another birthday on the calendar. Many changes have been witnessed in a long career that predates laptops, personal computers, fax machines, cell phones, but not electricity. A denial was made about knowing Abraham Lincoln, even though Abe was rumored to have a nasty jump hook on the basketball court.

In the field of economic development there have been numerous changes, too. Back in the day, every community promoted a high quality of life (QOL) including the best fire department, school system, and main street entertainment district.

Alas, QOL yielded to a more modern term, Livability. And Livability spawned the Livability Index (LI), as launched by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The wealth and buying power of retirees continues to increase, causing AARP to be right in the middle of a new trend. LI may prove to be a useful resource for ‘seasoned citizens’ buying a second or third home in new areas, ideally where modern conveniences are abundant.

AARP launched its online and user friendly tool for individuals seeking a LI score by address, zip code, or community. The output is an overall livability score for a desired area. AARP says its LI is the first tool of its kind to measure livability broadly at the neighborhood level for the entire country, and it is intended to inform and encourage people to take action to make their communities more livable. AARP uses seven livability categories, including housing (affordability and access), neighborhood (access to life, work, and play), transportation (safe and convenient options), environment (clean air and water), health (prevention, access, and quality), engagement (civic and social engagement), and opportunity (inclusion and possibilities).

OK, OK. How did St. Croix Valley communities score? Have some fun and search favorite communities or zip codes at as the economic development guy wishes to remain somewhat neutral. In broader areas however, St. Croix County, Wisconsin scored a 55 out of 100, but directly across the river, Washington County, Minnesota earned a 60. Madison, Wisconsin had a nice round 66, but coveted Edina in Minnesota got a 60. Austin, Minnesota (home of Hormel) is scored at 54 and Austin, Texas (home of Hippies, Pickers, Slackers, and Geeks) is at 57. Web users could have fun with this tool.

Upon further thought, the economic development guy likes the science behind AARP’s system. Subjective quality of life promotions may have fallen by the wayside now that young families, working adults, and retirees can analyze communities and neighborhoods themselves. So can Hormel’ers and Hippies.

R-E-A-D Ethel Johnson’s Legacy


R-E-A-D Ethel Johnson’s Legacy


Ethel is not a common name, even though St. Croix’s fast-talking economic development guy claims it was his maternal grandmother’s name and the middle name of one of his sisters. Internet sources say Ethel is Old English, meaning noble and strength, or noble maiden, old counsel, or sage.

Armed with that bit of information, the e.d. guy was surprised to hear from a business associate after a few years of radio silence. Through retirement, the colleague settled into a variety of new interests, including treasurer of the UW-River Falls branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). AAUW has the admirable mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Now that’s noble and strong.

The colleague did not expect the fast-talker to know Mrs. Ethel Louise Johnson, who passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 96. The story of Ethel unfolded. Raised in rural Wisconsin, she was committed to education throughout her entire life. By train, Ethel came to the River Falls Normal School, now UW-River Falls, with a reported ten cents in her possession. Ethel located housing where she could work in exchange for room and board. She earned a paid tuition as class Salutatorian and received her Associate Teaching Degree in 1942. Her first teaching job was at a one room school in Woodville, Wisconsin. Ethel continued her education and received her Bachelor of Science in Education, followed by a Masters in Reading Education – both from UW-River Falls. After marriage and three children, Ethel retired from a 43-year teaching career at the end of the 1991-92 school year. She was in her early 70s.

The last 33-years of Ethel’s teaching tenure were spent in the Hudson, Wisconsin school district. She developed many parts of the reading program in Hudson. It was a love of reading that the River Falls AAUW branch and friends of Ethel established a fund to honor her memory. Called the Ethel Johnson Literacy Grant, funding is available for projects to enhance the reading skills of St. Croix and Pierce County residents.

There is some urgency with the 2019 grant cycle. Applications are accepted September 15-October 25. A panel of AAUW members will review them, and awards are made by November 10th, based on merit of objectives and population served. Grants are capped at maximum of $400 and prospective applicants can learn more at .

Daughter-in-law Jean Johnson oversees the fund. She said, “Helping others was a priority for Ethel. Offering this grant through AAUW-River Falls is a fitting way to honor her memory.”

Forward-thinking employers in the St. Croix Valley continue to seek top level talent. This includes hiring associates with good reading, math, and soft (people) skills. Ethel Louise Johnson likely did not envision a connection between her love of education and reading with the technical aspects of advanced manufacturing. Thanks to her wisdom and friends at AAUW, Ethel Johnson and her namesake literacy program make big impacts to St. Croix’s economic future. Ethel Johnson was one strong, noble lady.

The Talk



The Talk


Dads and sons usually have matter-of-fact relationships. If the kid gets tackled too hard, a dad may suggest shaking it off before the lad returns to the huddle. It’s matter-of-fact, and sometimes it’s just the facts.

Moms take a different approach in dealing with their sons, perhaps a combo platter of caring, sweetness, and then the tough love.

The conversation below, between a young father and his young son, could have occurred along a main street, or at an ice cream shop, or backyard as a ball was being tossed back and forth. It’s entitled, The Talk, and went something like this:

“So you see son, good manners are important. Should I go through it again?”


“Yes, please.”

“Yes, please.”


Rapid fire from Dad, “Always say please, thank-you, you’re welcome, excuse me, sit-up straight, hold doors open for ladies, if a door is closed, knock first, don’t burp, don’t swear, don’t stare, don’t use bad language, don’t talk with your mouth full, keep your elbows off the table, don’t interrupt, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, on the bus give up your seat to anybody who has trouble standing, . . . bottom line, treat others the way you want to be treated.”

“Got it?”

“Got it.”


“Good talk, son.”

Of course during The Talk on manners, the kiddo has a nose issue that’s resolved the old fashioned way using an index finger.

As a footnote, the conversation was borrowed from the Ad Council’s public service message on children’s oral health. Their message: good parenting is hard to do in two minutes, but brushing twice a day is easier.

If there’s an occasion to have The Talk with a son, the script is written. Add ‘brush your teeth twice a day’ for a more comprehensive list.

In hopes the St. Croix Valley is ranked among the Most Polite in the World, here’s to young men with exceptional manners because of The Talk.

It’s School Supply Time


It’s School Supply Time


The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade association. NRF’s 2019 survey of back-to-school shopping was released on July 15th and includes some eye-opening figures. A billion dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to, but NRF forecasts total spending on school supplies at $80.7 billion. That’s enough to put a serious dent in mom’s handbag or dad’s money clip.

NRF knows a thing or two about the retail sector. Their 30-second elevator pitch says retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, which contributes $2.6 trillion to the annual gross domestic product and supports one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. All big numbers. Just remember to keep the M’s, B’s, and T’s straight (millions, billions, and trillions).

NRF breaks its back-to-school shopping into two segments – K-12 and college-bound. Families with kiddos in elementary school through high school will spend a forecasted $696.70 on school supplies. Let’s round it up to $700 to include the bottle of ibuprofen or antacids. Total K-12 spending is estimated at $26.2 billion and that’s down from 2018’s $27.5 billion because fewer surveyed families say they have children in elementary or high schools.

At $239.82, clothing and accessories are the top expense for K-12 shoppers, followed by electronics ($203.44), shoes ($135.96) and supplies ($117.49). The basics like notebooks, pencils, and backpacks, etc., are included in the supplies category. This means some K-12 families are in for a little over $100 if clothing, shoes, and electronics are carryover items from the previous school year. Oh what a dreamer!

Families with college students will likely spend an average of $976.78, a bit higher than 2018’s spending of $942.17, and higher than the previous record spending of $969.88 in 2017. Total spending for college supplies in 2019 is estimated at $54.5 billion and that’s down from 2018’s record $55.3 billion. The theme of fewer young adults in college continues with the surveyed families.

College-bound shopping includes $234.69 for electronics, $148.54 for clothing and accessories, $120.19 for dorm or apartment furnishings, and $98.72 for food. A couple of observations – what’s wrong with last year’s wall posters for the furnishings, and, students should plan on slipping an apple from the campus dining services into a backpack if they need food for their dorm room. Repeat: Oh what a dreamer!

There is a silver lining in mom’s handbag or dad’s money clip. NRF says teens expect to spend an average $36.71 of their money on back-to-school shopping and pre-teens will part with $26.40. This means the younger generation is involved in making buying decisions instead of leaving it up to moms, dads or grandparents.

NRF’s survey from mid-July indicated almost 90 percent of K-12 and college-bound shoppers still had half or more of their purchases left to complete. Forty-nine percent were waiting for the best deals. This may be akin to the lonely shopper in a mall on Christmas Eve as the stores are going dark. Don’t wait too long, consumers.

Whether this year’s shopping is done online or at a big box retailer, keep some of the shopping local, including on main street. Back-to-school spending is huge, almost like another holiday but without a tree or the wrapping paper. Handbag, money clip, or credit card . . . let’s get out there.

2019 Preliminary Population Estimates Released

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2019 Preliminary Population Estimates Released For Local Units of Government

Census Bureau: St. Croix Adds 5,300 Residents Since 2010 Population Increases 6.28 Percent; Latest Estimate is 89,645

In mid-August, the Division of Intergovernmental Relations (Demographic Service Center) within the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), released preliminary population estimates for the state’s local units of government, as of January 1, 2019.

St. Croix County’s population is estimated at 89,645 compared to the 2010 Census estimate of 84,345 (+6.28 percent increase and +5,300 people by numeric increase).

The Top 5 gainers by percentage increase are Dane County (+10.06 percent), Calumet (+8.26 percent), St. Croix (+6.28%) Outagamie (+5.88 percent), and Brown (+5.82 percent).

By numeric increase the Top 5 gainers are Dane County (+49,083), Waukesha (+14,974), Brown (+14,445), Outagamie (+10,397), and Washington (+5,740). St. Croix was sixth with +5,300 new residents since the 2010 Census.

Adjacent Polk County added an estimated +331 new residents since the 2010 Census (+0.47 percent increase) for a preliminary January 1, 2019 population estimate of 44,536. Pierce County added +1,189 residents since 2010 (+2.90 percent) for a new population estimate of 42,208. Dunn County’s new population estimate is 44,621 (+764 new residents; +1.74 percent).

Wisconsin added +154,264 people since the 2010 Census for a new population of 5,841,250 (+2.71 percent gain).