Wisconsin is Working as Optimism Soars

With Labor Day behind us and the kids back in school, people across the state are waking up and heading back to work. In Wisconsin, more than half of these workers are headed to a small business. In fact, among the 25 most populous states, Wisconsin ranks 2nd for small business activity. So whether the job is on a farm, working with food, or in the service or manufacturing sectors, it’s no small thing that optimism among small businesses has recently soared to the highest levels in history.


At the same time that economic optimism is reaching new heights, Wisconsin is setting records with our unemployment below 3% for the sixth straight month. State unemployment has fallen to 2.9% from  nearly 9% in 2010 and is now the sixth lowest in the nation, compared to 26th place eight years ago. We’re beating the national unemployment rate by a full point and our labor participation rate (the percentage of people working in Wisconsin) is also breaking records, outpacing the country by more than 6%.


With high employment and increased business expansion, workers in Wisconsin are in high demand. Since 2010, wages have increased 25% and per capita income has climbed from $38,117 to $46,762. In Madison, we’ve been helping Wisconsin families take advantage of the boom by doubling down on our state investment in workforce development. Since we hung our “Open for Business” sign on the border in 2011, we’ve invested more than $365 million in workforce development, including vocational rehab programs, K-12 technical education grants, career development service for people on FoodShare, and financial aid so Wisconsinites of all ages can get training for a new career or promotion.


Another benefit of the good economic environment is that our young people don’t need to look far from home for a great job. To give high school students a taste of what’s available close to home, we’ve doubled the number of youth apprenticeships so that 3,500 high school students across Wisconsin now receive unique, hands-on training while they assist local businesses as part of their high school education. Our UW System tuition freeze, now in its 6th year, has helped more young people earn degrees right here in Wisconsin and saved the average UW student between $6,300 and $10,000. We’ve also introduced a new plan to encourage graduates to live, work and raise families in the Badger State, with up to $5,000 in tax credits for graduates who begin their careers in Wisconsin. 


Even though Wisconsin continues to break economic records, we shouldn’t take this progress for granted. A government that puts its families first and creates a favorable environment for jobs and business to grow has not always been the norm in Wisconsin. It hasn’t always been easy to stand up to the big government special interests who benefit from high taxes, high regulation and out of control spending but the positive results have made it worthwhile.


No matter where you work or what you do, I hope you had the chance to take a break from work this Labor Day and are feeling refreshed and ready for what is ahead. In Madison, we will keep working just as hard as you do to make sure that the future is as bright for our kids as it is for us.