Three COVID Perspectives


Three COVID Perspectives


The recent global pandemic had big impacts on just about every sector, from the neighborhood lemonade stand, to tourism spending, and the collection of an extra half-cent on taxable purchases by county government in Wisconsin.   

Lemons, Lemonade, Entrepreneurship

In November 2019, a governor’s signature finally legalized lemonade stands in Wisconsin and preteen entrepreneurs in the St. Croix Valley were primed for big sales in 2020. Oops. COVID-19 halted those plans, at least temporarily. Prior to the signature, many, if not most, lowly lemonade stands operated illegally. Aggressive zoning enforcement closed more than one. Legislators wisely said, Enough. State law now prohibits local governments from imposing restrictions on lemonade stands. Anyone under the age of 18 can operate a stand on private property without a permit – as long as sales are under $2,000 a year. With a year off, the stands are back in 2021 to the point of market saturation. There’s a lesson with too much of a good thing. Competition is fierce. The best sign so far has been, “Last Chance Lemonade” seen along the boulevard before customers turned onto a busy highway. Long live the lemonade stands in the St. Croix Valley. If you appreciate hustle and enjoy a budding entrepreneur learning about small business, please consider stopping. And don’t forget the tip!

Traveler Spending

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism conducts an annual survey as a way to assess tourist spending for each county and then a cumulative estimate for the state. Bad news in 2020. Even with stay-cations and working from home, the pandemic put a hurt on tourist spending. In St. Croix County, spending was down an estimated 24.5 percent from 2019 to 2020 to a little over $90 million. Across Wisconsin, spending was down almost $4 billion and declined 28.3 percent. Less spending translated into fewer tourism-supported jobs, especially for college students during the summer. Travelers and tourists help generate local and state tax revenues. For St. Croix County, tax revenues fell by almost 20 percent between 2019 and 2020, but still generated an estimated $11.9 million. With the economy opening up, a No Brainer prediction for tourist spending in 2021 equates to a return to estimates rivaling 2019’s pre-pandemic numbers.

Sales Tax Collections

Wisconsin state law gives counties the option to collect an extra half-cent on taxable purchases or services. On a $10 purchase, the total sales tax is fifty-five cents, with fifty cents going to the state and five cents going to the county. Those extra pennies add up. A $1,000 taxable purchase means the county earns $5.00 of the $55.00 sales tax bill. In 2020, St. Croix County enjoyed its most bountiful year and collected $9.759 million. The half-cent has been collected in St. Croix since late 1987, so tens of millions have been realized. The sales tax revenues offset county expenses on capital improvements without raising additional taxes or having to borrow money. Even during the pandemic, St. Croix collected more than $1.1 million (+12.7 percent) than in 2019. Were at-home workers taking advantage of flexible schedules in 2020 and ordering products online? Yes, and No. Many businesses had COVID restrictions so it may have been easier to shop online. But in addition, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair enabled the collection of sales taxes by states at the point of sale, whether out of state or online, even if the seller lacked a physical location in the taxing state. This translated into a windfall for counties collecting an extra sales tax. Whether the purchases are large, small, online, or in-person, the sales tax is an important revenue driver.

Here’s to an economy that’s opening up. Stop by a lemonade stand, travel to a community celebration disguised as a tourist, and buy a taxable item. All are meaningful.

May 2021 Unemployment

Trending News

St. Croix County’s May Unemployment Rate is 3.3%

On June 23rd, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced the preliminary May 2021 unemployment rates for Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the 34 cities with populations greater than 25,000 residents. St. Croix County’s May rate was estimated at 3.3%, which is lower than the final rate of 3.9% for April and the final rate of 4.5% for March. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 12.7%.

DWD said preliminary unemployment rates from April to May declined in all 72 counties and also declined in all 72 counties year-over-year. The rates ranged from 2.6% in Lafayette to 8.4% in Menominee.

Preliminary unemployment rates declined in all of Wisconsin’s 34 largest municipalities from April to May and declined or stayed the same in all of the largest municipalities, year-over-year. Rates ranged from 2.8% in Muskego to 7.0% in Milwaukee.

The five counties with the lowest unemployment rates in May include Lafayette (2.6%), Kewaunee (2.7%), Pepin (2.8%), Taylor (also at 2.8%), and Calumet (2.9%). Menominee County had the highest rate in May at 8.4%, followed by Forest (7.2%), Iron (6.3%), Adams (6.1%), and Milwaukee (5.8%).

St. Croix, Pierce, Polk, and Dunn counties comprise Wisconsin’s Greater St. Croix Valley. In addition to St. Croix’s rate of 3.3%, May’s preliminary rate in Pierce was also 3.3%, followed by Dunn is at 3.6%, while Polk came in at 3.8%.

St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the 15-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area. The May 2021 unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was estimated at 3.8%, which is lower than the final rate of 4.1% for April and March’s final rate of 4.3%. The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 10.1% in May 2020.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in May was estimated at 3.9%, which is the same as April’s final rate, but higher than higher than the final rate of 3.8% for March. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 10.4%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in Minnesota in May was estimated at 4.0%, which is lower than April’s final rate of 4.1% and March’s final rate of 4.2%. Minnesota’s seasonally-adjusted rate one year ago was 11.3%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in the U.S. for May was estimated at 5.8%, which is lower than April’s final rate of 6.1% and March’s final rate of 6.0%. One year ago, the U.S. rate (seasonally adjusted) was estimated at 13.3%.

Wisconsin’s preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for May was estimated at 66.1%, which is higher than April’s final rate of 65.9% and March’s final rate of 65.7%. One year ago, Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate was 65.6%. The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for the U.S. in May was estimated at 61.6%, which is lower than April’s final rate of 61.7% but higher than March’s final rate of 61.5%. One year ago, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 60.8%.

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