Economic Report: Solid Finish Fuels Optimism

February 1, 2024

(Rock County, WI) Despite some declining national indicators, the Janesville-Beloit MSA wrapped up 2023 in a solid position. In fact, a few new milestones were reached. These highlights, as well as others, are featured in this week’s release of the Q4 2023 Rock Ready Index.

The (average) annual unemployment rates were effectively unchanged throughout the year. Rock County’s rate was at 3.3%, while the federal rate was at 3.6%. Meanwhile, the state rate was at 2.9%. During the last six years, rates have shifted back-and-forth in the 2.9% to 3.9% range, respectively. While Wisconsin’s labor force participation rates remain comparatively higher than elsewhere, an uptick in employment separations for mid-level positions and fewer overall vacancy postings, became more pronounced during 2023. As a result, job postings were less robust than the previous three years.

Residential pricing in the Janesville-Beloit MSA continued to rise, as Q4 set a new quarterly record. While it was a modest 3% gain, there was a 12% jump from 2021. Meanwhile, the 2023 median sale price rose by nearly 9% compared to a year ago. On the inventory side, new home starts in 2023 were down slightly more than six percent from a year ago; and transactions for the year were roughly 13% lower than 2022’s sales.

The County’s sales and use tax collections for Q4, while strong at $4.6 Million, were down by 8% from Q4 a year ago. That said, the first three quarters of 2023 provided enough lift to elevate the year-end collections to a new, year-end record high of $19.4 Million. Since 2019, collections have averaged $17.5 Million per. 

While data from the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Indicators and the ISM Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index(PMI) painted a pessimistic outlook for the U.S. economy, the economic development pipeline for the Janesville-Beloit MSA during Q4 was active. Since decisions are taking longer, and a higher percentage of the projects which originally surfaced in 2022 and/or 2023 are now paused or shelved, its remains TBD if any of the pipeline activity will translate into something tangible.

To keep the Janesville-Beloit business development profile relevant during these periods, the area will need to continually prioritize strategic investments in real estate and infrastructure. An example or rather an outcome of this approach – where preparation facilitates an opportunity – involves the Wolter, Inc.’s (Janesville) expansion and relocation project. For more information, see the Q4 Project Profile.

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