Rock County's economic indicators on a positive trend

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JANESVILLE - Rock County has lots of new real estate development underway, steady unemployment numbers and increased sales tax collections, according to the Rock Ready Index third quarter report.

"Things are continually moving in the right direction in terms of area economic indicators," said Rock County Development Manager James Otterstein.

Otterstein said unemployment is holding firm. Unemployment rates are steady with a rate of 3.5% in Rock County, lower than the national rate of 3.7% and a bit higher than the state rate of 3.1%.

Healthcare and logistics-related openings represented more than 40% of the job postings during the quarter, Otterstein said.

Home prices continued to increase, as new benchmark averages were set during the quarter for both median ($174,653) and average sale ($187,220) prices. The average sale price gains were about 3% higher than the previous quarter and nearly 8% more than a year ago. When compared to the same time frame in 2017, the current average sale prices are approximately 18% higher.

Otterstein said higher real estate selling prices is better for sellers, but he noted it can be challenging for people with limited incomes to find affordable housing. With a housing stock shortage, people are often living in other areas and commuting into the county. However, that is starting to change with more housing stock becoming available.

With nearly 200 (new) single-family permits issued in 2019, and various multi-family projects announced, he said the area's housing inventory is slowly being restocked.

Apartment developments in Beloit, Janesville and Milton are slated to add approximately 700 units to the market by 2024. In Beloit, a 70-unit apartment development is planned on the site of the former Kerry building on West Grand Avenue, and a 93-unit apartment development called River Flats is planned in downtown Janesville.

"That is welcome news for not only employers trying to find housing when recruiting, but also for others in our community who are looking to scale down or adjust their current housing situation," Otterstein said. "The housing supply is starting to build back the inventory depleted over the past six to 10 years."

Sales tax collections continue to rise, which Otterstein called an important economic indicator.

"If folks are feeling confident with personal income invariably they will spend more locally," Otterstein said.

The previous high benchmark was $10.39 million in 2008. It took until 2013, for that number to be exceeded at $10.66 million. Every year beginning in 2013 through present, those numbers have continued to rise.

In 2014, it was $11.84 million; 2015, $12.28 million; 2016, $13.24 million; 2017, $13.76 million ; and in 2018, $ 14.26 million.

"This year, even with a full quarter remaining, Rock County will be pushing close to $15 million in sales tax collections by the end of the year. It would be a record for the county," Otterstein said.

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