Waupaca County by the numbers
New census data confirms trends
By James Card
City Administrator Jeremy Schroeder hosted a meeting at city hall on Thursday, Nov. 4.
This Small Community Forum Regional Workshop was one of four held this year. Other venues were Hayward, Fountain City and Spring Green.
The forums’ goals are to provide resources and a venue for people who care about the future of Wisconsin’s small communities.
Forty people were present and it was a mix of Weyauwega residents and business leaders, and representatives from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Arts Wisconsin, UW-Extension, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Rural Partners, the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development branch. Also there were the former mayors of Racine and Appleton and state Sen. Joan Ballweg.
There was a presentation by Wega Arts and the Weyauwega-Fremont School District and roundtable discussions were held in the topics of entrepreneurship, community engagement and placemaking which is the planning, design and management of public spaces.
The main presentation of the program was by Matt Kures, a community economic development specialist from the Community Development Institute at UW-Madison’s Division of Extension.
It was titled, “Wisconsin by the Numbers” and he warned the audience that so much information would be put before them that it would be like drinking from a fire hose.
He crunched the recent data gathered from the 2020 census and applied it statewide to determine economic trends. Then he juxtaposed that information to compare what is trending in Waupaca County to the rest of Wisconsin and also the United States.
• Waupaca County’s population grew in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s; had a small growth rate up to 2010 and the 2020 numbers indicate the population has declined by 1.1%. This is not just happening in Waupaca County but it is part of a larger trend in Wisconsin, the Midwest and the United States. Birth rates are the lowest they have been since the 1950s.
• Of the people who live in Waupaca County, 40% of them work in the county and 60% work somewhere else. This indicates they are forced to work somewhere else because of a lack of job options within Waupaca County.
This is common in non-metro counties in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. There are numerous reasons for this: wage differentials, the types of job opportunities and quality of life trade-offs (such as trading a long commute in order to live in a scenic area).
• Net migration is people moving in and out of a community. In Waupaca County, more people moved into the county than out of the county in this past decade than the prior decade. Kures surmised that because the Waupaca area has a high level of natural amenities, this attracts seasonal homeowners which in turn attract retirees and pre-retirees. Northern Wisconsin counties have some of the highest rates in the country for housing units designated for seasonal, recreational or occasional use (e.g. cabins up north).
• People are less mobile than in prior decades and less likely to move across county lines or state lines. This is a nationwide trend and Waupaca County is no different.
• From 2019 estimates, people under the age of 15 (our future workforce) represented 16.3% of Waupaca County’s population. The state of Wisconsin was 19.5%. For ages 15 to 19, it was 5.9%, which was slightly below the state and national average. For ages 20 to 24, it was 5% and the national average was 7%. Portage County was 11.5%, which was attributed to the presence of UW-Stevens Point.
• People in between the ages of 25 to 54 make up the majority of the workforce. For Waupaca County it was 35.0 percent. The state average was 40.8 percent and the national average was 41.2 percent.
• Pre-retirement age individuals in Waupaca County are higher than state and national averages. For those aged 65 and older, they represented 24.9% of the population, the third highest in surrounding counties.
• In 2030, the 65 and over age group is projected to jump to 32.1%. This is not unique to Waupaca County and is consistent with other numbers across the state and nation.
• Where people in Waupaca County get their money: 58.7% is through earnings, 17.1% is through dividends, interest and rent and 24.2% is from personal current transfer receipts (such as Social Security, unemployment insurances, etc).
• Workers aged 55 and older in Waupaca County by industry predicts where there will be job vacancies in the near future. Transportation and warehousing is the highest at 38.% . Utilities are the next highest at 32.1% and third is agricultural and forestry at 31.4%.
• Of workers aged 55 or older in the region, 20,396 of them work in manufacturing, 10,656 work in health care, 8,725 work in retail and 5,360 work in education.
Key takeaway: “This is a structural issue. There are simply fewer people of working age and prime working age than there were compared to prior decades and it is going to continue to be harder to find workers,” said Kures.