Crawford County

        Crawford County is the 11th least populated county among Wisconsin’s 72 counties. With an estimate of 16,129 residents in 2022, the county’s population has remained stable in the first two years of this decade. The county gained 16 residents, equivalent to 0.1% of its population. By comparison, Wisconsin experienced population growth of 0.9% and the United States experienced population growth of 0.3% over the same period. Of the county’s 10 most populous municipalities, the Town of Bridgeport gained the most residents (16), while the City of Prairie du Chien lost the most residents (-60).

In April of 2020, Crawford County’s unemployment rate climbed 12.6 percentage points, resulting in a peak rate of 18.8%, significantly higher than the rates following the 2008 financial crisis. In November 2021, nearly two years after this initial spike, the unemployment rate fell to a historic low of 2.7%. However, high inflation has slowed down the rapid economic recovery. In June 2022, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 9.1% year-over-year, the largest increase in 40 years. The economy began to slow down as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to tackle inflation. The unemployment rate increased to 3.6% in December of 2022. 

Employment Change By Industry

       Seven of 11 industries registered growth from 2020 to 2021, and four of those seven industries surpassed 2019 levels. The three largest industries in terms of employment share are trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality. Together, these industries make up 65.3% of the county’s total employment. Leisure and hospitality grew from 2020 to 2021, while the other two industries remain unchanged.

      In Crawford County, the manufacturing industry experienced both the greatest numerical and proportional loss in employment in 2020 due to the pandemic. The downward trend continued in 2021, as the industry lost 10 jobs during the year. Although the decline has slowed, the industry has not fully recovered from COVID-19. On the other hand, the leisure and hospitality industry saw strong growth numbers. The industry had the county’s highest growth rate, at 13% in 2021. Additionally, the industry surpassed its 2019 employment level by 4.6%. The leisure and hospitality industry has strong potential for future expansion, as leisure activities shift from urban to rural areas.


       Crawford County is a rural county. About one-third of the residents travel outside of the county for work, and 24.1% of those that work in the county reside in another county. The Scenic Mississippi Regional Transit System provides weekday bus services in the county, connecting Prairie du Chien, Lynxville, and Ferryville to the city of La Crosse. However, 90.5% of employed county residents rely on a car to get to work and more than 75% drive alone. The average commute time is 24.1 minutes. Car-centered infrastructure leads to a difficult conundrum: qualified individuals could fill a job if they had transportation and could afford transportation if they had a job. Some employers address this issue by offering telecommuting and transportation reimbursement.


        Crawford County has a lower share of renters allocating more than 30% of income for 2023 Crawford County. Nonetheless, nearly four out of 10 renters still dedicate more than 30% of income to housing. In addition to cost, housing availability is a challenge in Wisconsin. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the state has a shortage of more than 120,000 rental units. Owner-occupied housing is in short supply in many communities as well. Like the state, construction of new homes in the county had slowed down significantly after the housing bubble burst in 2008. A direct way to increase quality and affordable housing stock is to incentivize the creation of multi-family units, which requires loosening zoning regulations. Since the county’s population has remained stable, consolidating existing neighborhoods, providing more funds and loans for replacement housing, and housing rehabilitation could be relevant solutions.

Child Care

      Crawford County’s average childcare cost is 17.4% higher than the state. The monthly cost of care ranges from $916 for an infant to $707 for a school age child. To put this cost in perspective, the median household in Crawford County would need to dedicate 20% of their earnings to infant care. Childcare availability is also a barrier to employment for Wisconsin families. According to the YoungStar provider database, which tracks approximately 82% of providers in the state, Crawford County has five total providers with a potential capacity of 108 children. The county’s capacity is relatively low when compared to the state. There are five childcare slots for every 100 children under the age of 14 in Crawford County compared to 14 statewide. Additionally, even families that have childcare struggle with childcare disruptions. Easing the cost and access burden would help more parents attain their full employment potential. Employers could also improve participation by providing flexibility to parents with childcare responsibilities.

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