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County Jobless Rate Dips, One of Best in the North

April 21, 2011

Antigo Daily Journal

Antigo Daily Journal

Langlade County posted the lowest jobless rate in the region during March, improving over 2 percent from a year ago.

New data from state labor officials shows unemployment fell in 68 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties between March and February, with Langlade County leading the northwoods.

The numbers are not stellar, with the 10.3 percent of the county workforce jobless, but it is far better from the March, 2010 numbers of 12.5 percent and a half-a-percent lower than February, at 10.8 percent.

“It’s a reflection of our strategies of building our local economy from within,” Antigo Director of Administrative Services Dale Soumis said. “We have focused on helping existing industries retain and expand their businesses.”

Soumis said the improving numbers also point to the diversification of local industries rather than a reliance on one or two large employers.

“It takes a long time for the payback to come, but eventually it does happen,” he said.

According to the state Department of Workforce Development, Florence, Iron and Vilas counties saw their rates increase while the rate in Lincoln County remained unchanged.

Lincoln County’s rate of 11.8 percent was still a vast improvement from a year ago, when it hovered at 15.7 percent. Iron County’s rate rose to 12.5 percent, up .8 percent, but was down from 15 percent a year earlier.

Vilas County rose .2 percent, to 13.5 percent. That was down from 14.9 percent in March, 2010 but still the highest unemployment rate in the northwoods.

Other surrounding counties included:

—Oneida: 11.7 percent, down .3 percent from February. The March, 2010 rate was 13.3 percent.

—Forest: 11.1 percent, down .7 percent from February. The March, 2010 rate was 13.3 percent.

—Ashland: 10.9 percent, down .1 percent from February. The March, 2010 rate was 12.8 percent.

Chris Berry, director of the Community Development Corporation, said her surveys of businesses and industry point to an improving economic climate and outlook.

“We’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “Some of these businesses have shifted their focus from just holding on to possible expansions.”

Berry pointed to the ongoing construction of Langlade Hospital and the completion of the Wood Technology Center at Northcentral Technical College as positive signs.

“I think these projects are really going to spur new growth throughout the county,” she said.

Deena Grabowsky, director of the Antigo/Langlade County Chamber of Commerce was pleased with the numbers, too.

She said they reflect an excellent effort by the local community, especially when compared to the data from a year ago and from others in the region.

“We have been working hard,” she said, adding that the efforts of many people are paying off.

At the state level, the Madison area had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.7 percent, down from 6 percent in March. The Janesville area had the highest unemployment rate at 10.2 percent, down from 10.7 percent in February. All the metro areas’ unemployment rates dropped from the same time a year ago.

“Under Governor Walker’s leadership, businesses are clearly gaining confidence in the economy and participating in Wisconsin’s annual hiring cycle,” Department of Workforce Development Manny Perez said.

The state as a whole added 12,300 jobs in March.

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