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(Rock County, WI) Despite various national and global pressure points, the Janesville-Beloit MSA economy recorded a strong start for the first quarter of 2022. Highlights of these trends are found in today’s release of the Q1 2022 Rock Ready Index.

The average unemployment rates for the county (3.9%), state (3.3%), and the nation (4.1%) for the beginning of 2022 looked like their counterparts from the tail-end of 2017 and the front-half of 2018, respectively. Meanwhile, the job posting data for the region – at roughly 28,500 – is generally reflective of the time period spanning from 2014 through 2015. Based on national and statewide data, the fatigue levels appear to be running equally high among employers and job seekers alike. Locally, and in terms of the job posting figures recorded by the www.JobsInRockCounty.com platform, there’s been a decline in 2022’s monthly postings by approximately 25%. That said, there’s still a healthy and diversified offering of employment opportunities ranging from entry-level to upper management positions that can be found on that electronic recruiting platform.  

Housing prices continued their upward movement, as Q1 set another record for Average Sale ($229,776) and Median Sale ($192,000) prices, respectively. From a sales perspective, the average number of transactions during Q1 were trending slightly lower than the same time periods in 2021 and 2020 – but nearly equal with the figures recorded in Q1 2019. Continued lean inventories, mixed with the recent jumps in mortgage interest rates, are projected to keep pricing elevated. While media pundits have traditionally characterized political campaign periods as the proverbial “silly season”, the same characterization could be applied to what’s been happening in the housing markets too.

Despite that continued craziness, the County’s sales and use tax collections posted another pacesetting quarter – where collections exceeded $4.13 million. Since 2007, this is the sixth time that a quarter has pushed beyond the $4 million threshold. As a matter of fact, this is the fourth consecutive quarter where collections have reached these levels. With talk of a recession looming, not to mention additional measures to drive-down inflation, it’s difficult to predict how local and regional household spending patterns will adjust.

These same variables – particularly when coupled with the ongoing concerns for the geopolitical hostilities and mounting pressures that are unfolding in Ukraine – has the attention of certain segments of the investment community. As a result, the economic development pipeline for the beginning of 2022 looked very similar to the opening of 2021 too. The notable exception, of course, is that the current capital investment levels (at $347 million) are considerably larger than those Q1 amounts from previous years. The labor crunch is certainly fueling these investments, as businesses are doubling-down on their automation and technology applications. Even though there’s been an uptick in the maneuvering among certain industry sectors, particularly those sensing opportunities tied to specific public policy initiatives, the overall sentiment – at least according the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which averaged about 58% for Q1 2022 – suggests the economy’s appetite is shifting. That said, there’s plenty of pipeline activity from the previous calendar year to keep the Janesville-Beloit MSA busy.

On that front, and in response to the increasing demand for new housing in the Janesville-Beloit MSA, the City of Milton approved an annexation request that will facilitate the transformation of the former Bonny Meade golf course into a residential area. Beginning sometime this summer and/or fall, Park Place Investments, LLC is slated to begin implementing its plans to bring an additional 96 new residential homes into the local market. Considering the lean residential inventories throughout the county, this development should provide a solid boost for Milton and the entire Janesville-Beloit MSA, as well.

The Rock Ready Index (RRI) is a quarterly economic development dashboard compiled and distributed by the Rock County Development Alliance. The RRI covers four topical areas: Workforce (Job Postings and Unemployment Rates), Real Estate (Residential, Commercial or Industrial) Trends, Sales (Tax Collection) Activities and a snapshot of the ED Pipeline's growth and/or investment opportunities. Each Index also includes a Project Profile section, which highlights project-specific news during a given quarter. For more information, visit www.RockCountyAlliance.com.

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