Jackson County is the 23rd least populated county among Wisconsin’s 72 counties. With an estimate of 21,118 residents, the county’s population experienced significant growth from 2010 to 2020, but has remained stable from 2020 to 2022. Since 2020, Jackson County lost 27 residents, equivalent to 0.1% of its population. In comparison, the state and nation experienced population growth during the same period, 0.9% and 0.3%, respectively. Of the county’s 10 most populous municipalities, the Town of Adams gained the most residents (17), while the Town of Brockway lost the most residents (-44).
In April 2020, Jackson County’s unemployment rate climbed 12.9 percentage points, resulting in a peak rate of 18.4%, 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 near historic low of 2.7%. However, high inflation has slowed 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 2022.
Employment Change by Industry
In Jackson County, public administration experienced both the greatest numerical and proportional loss in employment in 2020 due to COVID-19. The downward trend continued in 2021, as the industry lost 106 jobs during the year. On the other hand, the manufacturing industry saw strong growth, at an 11% growth rate for 2021. This industry is the fastest-growing in the county and has surpassed its 2019 employment level by 2%. In contrast, the manufacturing industry on the state level grew roughly 1.6% during the same time frame.
Jackson County is a rural county. There is no local or intercity public transit system available in the county as of 2022. 31.5% the residents travel outside of the county for work, and 33.4% of the county’s workers reside in another county. As expected, 87.7% of employed county residents rely on a car to get to work and more than 75% drive alone. 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.
Less time commuting lead to higher productivity and better mental health. However, as of December 2022, home prices have surged almost 40% since 2020, while mortgage rates have more than doubled since January. This has priced many buyers out of the market and slowed the construction of new homes, putting more stress on the rental market. High housing costs discourage job seekers from moving into the region, leading to a shortage of workers, especially for lower-wage roles.
Jackson County has a lower share of renters allocating more than 30% of income for housing compared to the state. Nonetheless, nearly four out of 10 renters still pay more than 30% of income on housing. In addition to cost, housing availability is also 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 regulation. 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
Childcare cost in Jackson County is lower than the state average. Nonetheless, it is costly. The monthly cost of care ranges from $731 for an infant to $550 for a school age child. To put this cost in perspective, a median Jackson County household would need to allocate 15% 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, there are 16 total providers with a potential capacity of 210 in Jackson County. The county has a relatively low capacity when compared to the state. There are six childcare slots for every 100 children under the age of 14 in Jackson County compared to 14 statewide. Additionally, families that have childcare struggle with childcare disruptions. Easing the cost and access burden would help more parents enter or participate more fully in the labor market. Employers could also improve participation by providing flexibility to parents with childcare responsibilities.