(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s top economist says the state’s economy is in a great place to grow, as long as the state doesn’t lose what makes it great.
John Koskinen, the chief economist for the state of Wisconsin, told the Wisconsin Economic Summit on Monday that Wisconsin has a strong workforce that wants to work, a large and solid manufacturing base and the potential to grow.
“We are hard-working. We’re middle class. [We have a] solid standard of living,” Koskinen said. “All of that is, to me, a pretty good place to start because we are a pretty good state.”
Koskinen said Wisconsin’s economy gets other high marks for eliminating the personal property tax and for the number of women who work across the state.
“Overall, we ranked 9th in the nation in terms of the employment population-ratio for married women,” Koskinen said. “If there are children in the family, we have 75% of parents both working and engaged. That’s what gives us the edge for family income. That’s what gives us the edge for child poverty. That’s what gives us the edge overall, because women are more engaged in the workforce in this state than the rest of the country as a whole.”
Koskinen noted Wisconsin has the third lowest poverty rate in the country.
Wisconsin also has 85% of its prime workforce, people between 25 and 54, who are working.
“We are way ahead of the rest of the country in terms of our labor force participation rate among teenagers and among young adults,” Koskinen said. “The gap between us and the state of California for example and those two categories is over 20 percentage points.”
But, Koskinen said there are warning signs and worries – particularly Wisconsin’s aging workforce and the learning loss that Wisconsin school kids saw from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
“In a sense we have a very good situation because of the people we have, and we can put ourselves in a very competitive environment to succeed provided we pay attention,” he added. “But if we don’t pay attention, we can lose the very property of what makes us a pretty good state.”