Economic Report: Fast Start to New Year

May 6, 2024

(Rock County, WI) Despite some challenging national indicators, the Janesville-Beloit MSA wrapped-up the beginning of 2024 in a solid economic position. These highlights, as well as others, are featured in this week’s release of the Q1 2024 Rock Ready Index.

Unemployment rates for Q1 – locally, statewide and nationally – began to exhibit slight upward movements. While there was less movement at the national level, which was already hovering around the 4% mark, the local and statewide rates tended to experience upticks in the seven-tenths of one-percent range. Certainly not high, but a signal of a slowing economy due to evolving national and global pressures.

As a result, the national job openings rate was down to an average of 5.3%, which was two percentage points lower than what was reported during the beginning of 2022. This same downward movement has been present locally/regionally too – as job postings are averaging about 23,000 per quarter: representing nearly a 21% drop from two years ago. Nonetheless, the overall demand for labor continues to outpace its available supply.

Residential pricing in the Janesville-Beloit MSA continued to rise, as Q1 set a new quarterly record. While average sale prices for the start of the year are up more than 10% compared to 2022, those gains are only 2.4% higher than last year. In terms of inventory, the number of new home starts were nearly 27% higher than a year ago. However, these starts trended lower by roughly 12% compared to its Q1 six-year average of 65 new home starts. That said, prospective multi-family investments are up, and that momentum could potentially add more than 500 units into the local market by 2026.

The County’s Q1 sales and use tax collections represented the highest (quarterly) level recorded since its optional tax was implemented 17 years ago. Compared to last year, these collections are 7% higher and 10% above the previous quarter’s figure, respectively. Nationally, though, there is increased concern consumers are carrying too much personal debt – as delinquency rates for auto loans and credit cards are at trending at 2008 Great Recession levels.

Meanwhile, data from the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Indicators, the ISM Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) and the recently released national GDP figure painted a less than robust U.S. economic picture. Despite that backdrop, the economic development pipeline for the Janesville-Beloit MSA remained well-stocked. Nevertheless, increased global geopolitical pressures – mixed with stubborn inflation, higher than normal interest rates and the looming national election – have already begun to negatively impact opportunities and their decision-making strategies, accordingly. 

Thankfully, there’s a decent supply of existing investments already advancing locally. A prime, as well as visible, example of this movement is the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center (WSCC). This 140,000 (+/-) square foot, infill and adaptive reuse development along Janesville’s Milton Avenue corridor is the featured Q1 profile project .

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