A child looking out a storefront window with a woman standing behind him.

SOCIOECONOMICS

Photo: VISIT Milwaukee

 

Socioeconomics—trends in population, households, and jobs—provides a big-picture overview of what's happening in the Region and is essential in land use and transportation planning. These trends are impacted by a number of external factors such as the economy, migration patterns, and fertility rates. More information about how the Commission manages these data and develops projections used for long-range planning can be found in the following technical reports: The Economy of Southeastern Wisconsin and The Population of Southeastern Wisconsin.

 

TRENDS IN ECONOMIC GROWTH AND POPULATION

Current estimates for population and jobs indicate that Southeastern Wisconsin has reached a pivotal point in its development. Specifically, population is growing at a slower pace than jobs, which means there will not be enough workers to fill additional, new jobs. To grow the economy, we will need to compete with other parts of the country and the world to attract new residents.

Note: VISION 2050 plan forecasts are reviewed and adjusted anytime the plan is amended or updated. The most recent review of plan forecasts can be found in the 2020 Update Report.

Photo: VISIT Milwaukee

A bar graph showing net migration to the Region by decade, showing we need more people for economy.
 

POPULATION

Actual and Projected Regional and County Population Levels: 1950-2050

During the 2000s, the population of Southeastern Wisconsin increased

4.6%. 

During the past decade, the Region's population grew at a slower rate, about 1.5%. This population increase is tracking the Commission's Low Projection of population growth.

In comparison, the population of Wisconsin and the Nation increased by 2.4% and 8% during the same time—both significantly slower rates than seen in recent decades.

The Region's population grew by about 30,000 people during the past decade. Over half of this growth occurred in Waukesha County.

Sources: U.S. Census (1950-2010), Wisconsin Department of Administration (2011-2020), and SEWRPC

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HOUSEHOLDS

Actual and Projected Regional and County Household Levels: 1950-2050

Monitoring changes in total households is important for land use planning as it greatly influences the demand for housing, transportation, and other public services. A household includes all people that occupy a housing unit together. 

During the 2000s, the number of households in the Region increased by 6.8%. Since then, the number of households in the Region has grown more slowly, increasing by 4.2% between 2010 and 2020.

Households are growing at a faster pace than total population due to a continued trend of decreasing average household size. 

Sources: U.S. Census (1950-2010), Wisconsin Department of Administration (2011-2020), and SEWRPC

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EMPLOYMENT

Actual and Projected Regional and County Employment Levels: 1970-2050

During the 2000s, the Region's employment decreased 3.7%, in part due to the economic recession that occurred between 2007 and 2009.

Since 2010, the Region's employment has grown robustly from 1,178,000 jobs in 2010 to an estimated 1,310,000 jobs in 2019, an increase of 11.2%.

In recent years, job growth has outpaced population growth, which means there will not be enough workers to fill additional jobs.

 

To grow the economy, we will need to compete with other parts of the country and the world to attract new residents.

Note: The intermediate employment projection for Racine County was revised in the 2020 Update to VISION 2050 to include additional planned employment associated with the Foxconn development.

Source: SEWRPC

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UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

Unemployment Rate in Southeastern Wisconsin: 1980-2019

During the recession that occurred during the late 2000s, Southeastern Wisconsin's unemployment rate increased to 9.2% in 2009 and 2010. As the economy recovered, the Region's unemployment rate subsequently declined to a level of 3.6% in 2019.

Some economists suggest that an unemployment rate below 5% represents an economy nearing capacity—more workers will be needed to fill jobs. In addition to population growth, improving access to employment can help grow the economy. 

Data shown here do not yet reflect the increase in unemployment that is being experienced as a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: SEWRPC

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