Unemployment rates in Wisconsin are lower than they have been in more than five years. But Wisconsin still lags behind Minnesota when it comes to median income and college degrees, and the Great Recession appears to have left its mark on consumer confidence.
Two speakers served up different takes on the regional economy Tuesday at a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse breakfast-hour economics forum. After bacon and eggs, Gov. Scott Walker supplied the optimism, while a UW-L economist presented a detailed analysis of Coulee Region trends.
“He’s governor — he has to be positive,” said Taggert J. Brooks, UW-L associate professor of economics. “I’m an economist — I can be negative.”
Walker highlighted the state’s 5.9 percent unemployment rate — the lowest since November 2008 — and Wisconsin’s roughly $1 billion budget surplus. He also reminded audience members of his office’s efforts to limit state spending and pay off debts.
The state’s unemployment rate should continue to fall in the next few months, Walker said.
“We see good indicators out there,” Walker said.
Brooks agreed with the governor that the state’s economy is on a “slow but positive” trend and said his research shows improvements in housing, lending and employment.
But some of Brooks’ data tempered the optimism. Wisconsin’s median annual income of $52,627 is about $6,500 less than the median income in Minnesota. In Wisconsin, 26.4 percent of residents have a college education, compared with 32.2 percent of Minnesotans.