Since the 2011 LIFE Study, Brown County has either remained stable or improved across a variety of economic indicators. This is particularly important given the economic challenges that have defined much of the last decade. For residents, or for those considering moving to the area, Brown County continues to be a very affordable place to live.
Unemployment rates in Brown County (shown in Figure 1) were reflective of the economic challenges and recovery experienced by the state and country more broadly. Prior to 2009, the unemployment rate in the county was 4.6%. The rate peaked in 2010 (8.7%) and has since declined to 4.1%, a rate lower than those recorded prior to the recession.
During the entire period, the unemployment rate in Brown County has been lower than the Wisconsin rate, though in most years the difference was small. The primary exception was during the peak of the recession when the rate in Brown County was notably lower than the state as a whole.
According to Figure 2, which presents data from the survey of leaders in Brown County, 46% of respondents in 2016 rated Brown County as excellent or good at attracting, cultivating, and rewarding talented young professionals. Alternatively, 47% indicated Brown County was fair or poor. When compared to 2011, the percentage of leaders who selected excellent or good increased by 19 percentage points.
Figure 3 provides a look at the leading indicators for this section. Overall, a number of the indicators reveal stability over time. For example, the cost of living, income distribution, and employment in the manufacturing sector have remained fairly stable over the past few years. The unemployment rate has declined in recent years, which is a positive sign.
In addition, the dollar value of residential building permits has increased recently. Since 2011, the value has grown fairly consistently from one year to the next and in 2015 it surpassed pre-recession levels ($132.2 million).