The dollars are greener on the other side of the state line

Matt Pommer • Wisconsin Newspaper Association

You might make more money doing your job in another state.

Last year Wisconsin ranked 29th in average pay, and trailed the national median average for income in 16 of 22 major occupational groups, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance which cited data from the U.S, Internal Revenue Service.

“The wage gap was as high as 14 percent among 10 high-paying occupations which require a college degree,” the WTA reported.

The numbers come from a report warning that Wisconsin needs to attract new citizens to maintain its workforce. In the period coverage 2010 to 2014 the state has experienced a net loss of more than 27,000 persons to outmigration.

Wisconsin has been a net loser to migration every year from 2005 to 2014 (when the latest figures are available). Those who moved to other states amounted to 1.9 percent of the population, the report noted.

“The state’s challenge is in attracting residents from other states,” it said. About 1.7 percent of population moved into the state during the 2012-2014 period, and that makes Wisconsin 45th in the nation in attracting new residents.

“For Wisconsin, private-sector pay may be an issue,” the WTA said. For those in the broad 26- to-44 age range, those who left the state had lower incomes in particular occupations when they moved but acquired higher wages as a result of their move compared to those who stayed in the state.

The report said Wisconsin’s long-term economic success seems to require attracting as many as 300,000 people in the next 20 years.

“If we cannot attract enough people to grow our existing workforce, Wisconsin companies will expand operations elsewhere, and the state will look unattractive to companies looking to relocate,” said WTA President Todd Berry.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was below the national average in 2015. In the period between 1992 and 1999 Wisconsin had one of the 10 lowest unemployment rates and the state was adding people through migration.

The unemployment rate measures how many people are out of work and looking for employment.

Wisconsin companies have reported difficulty in filling job openings. Concern has focused on recruiting young professionals in the 26-through-34 age bracket.

Madison and Dane County have had significant growth in high-tech sectors and research operations. The metropolitan Milwaukee area, the base of much of Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector, has had more difficulty in employee recruitment, according to newspaper reports.

Perhaps Chicago and the Twin Cities may seem like more cosmopolitan and attractive places for young people to live. Of course, recent national media attention to rioting and violence in Milwaukee could impact the reputation of the city and state.

The WTA report showed some things don’t change. It showed a significant outmigration of those over age 65 with family incomes of more than $100,000. Politicians have argued for decades over the main cause of such outmigration.

Is it lower state taxes elsewhere or warm winters?

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