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(Rock County, WI) The Janesville-Beloit MSA economy posted another strong quarter, even in the midst of turbulent global and domestic conditions. A summary of this economic report is highlighted in today’s release of the Q3 2021 Rock Ready Index.

The area’s average unemployment rate continued to move incrementally down one-or-two tenths of a percentage point; and the same was true for the state and national levels too. While this slow-to-moderate decline has been constant throughout all three quarters of YR 2021, some forecasts suggest this trend might shift in Q4. Meanwhile, regional job postings settled into one of their lowest quarterly marks during the last three years. According to job openings and turnover data released by the federal government, job posting figures were down during the month of August for WI and all of its neighboring states – and the same was the case half of the nation, as well. During this same period, the rate of voluntary employment separations (i.e. known as the quit rate), peaked in the U.S. Whether it’s because of job posting fatigue or due to the prevalence of the great resignation, the need to staff-up remains a top priority. Locally, the hiring appetite didn’t slow down during Q3 – as the number of postings on www.JobsInRockCounty.com remained around the 475 mark on a weekly basis. Compared to the previous quarter, the Q3 2021 postings were about 12% higher.

Housing prices and transactions during Q3 2021 set a new benchmark; and these figures were about three percent and 15% higher than a year ago, respectively. While average median sale prices cooled somewhat from the red-hot pace set during the previous quarter, average quarterly sales volumes where 23% higher. In comparison to statewide and national averages, YoY sales figures for Q3 2021 in the Janesville-Beloit MSA were higher. While pricing remained aggressive throughout the local market, these figures were about half-to-one-third of the average prices recorded at the state and national level, respectively. Despite the presence of home buyer bidding wars and the persistent materials / supplies shortages, there are plenty of buyers and renters. Case in point: the vast majority of the new multi-family units in the Janesville-Beloit MSA are generally pre-leased prior to market deliver; and permitting volumes for new single-family homes are trending roughly two times greater than compared to a year ago. Nevertheless, home buyers and renters are encouraged to keep their patience, flexibility and financial meters well-stocked.

The County’s sales and use tax collections for Q3 ($4.71 million) established a new record, posting nearly a 10% gain when compared to the same quarter a year ago. While slightly below the all-time (quarterly) collections recorded in Q2 2021, July and September’s figures remained strong despite lagging consumer confidence and supply chain considerations nationally. That said, retailers are attempting to brace for a year-end buying frenzy because consumers have already signaled their intentions to leverage existing purchasing power by ordering early – and in bulk too – to avoid price spikes and goods shortages. Even if consumer goods from the Pacific Rim eventually make their way from the ports into the heartland, there still needs to be a labor supply routing these items into stores and homes.

Overall, the economic development pipeline for Q3 followed the same general trend for YR 2021. For example, prospective investments increased in size and value each quarter. As a matter of fact, the total square footage (SF) represented in this quarter is the second highest figure recorded for the third quarter during the last decade. While the number of logistics-related investments are lower than anticipated, there was strong representation from the manufacturing sector – particularly those activities associated with the energy sector. In addition, food-related processing – as well as equipment and packaging – were well represented too. Historically, the food and beverage industry has been a solid investment play for the area, region and state. According to the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), the Q3 2021 average rating level was 60.16; and a PMI rating greater than 50 serves as an industrial expansion indicator. However, pent-up demand and opportunities aside, the decision making miles stones for investors during YR 2021 have been impacted by construction materials / supplies shortages and pricing. Consequently, a number of anticipated projects have been delayed.

Rounding out the economic report for the third quarter is a feature on one of Janesville’s multi-family projects: The Glade Residences. By leveraging timely support from the public sector, Hovde Properties has out-performed its original forecasts. As a result, the development will be wrap-up two years ahead of schedule. While the focal point of the article is geared toward celebrating the accelerated delivery of more than 230 market-rate units in the city, the salient point is this: these types of investments are successful because of strategic public/private partnerships.

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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