Rock County has lots of new real estate development underway, steady unemployment and rising 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 Rock County unemployment is steady at 3.5%, lower than the national rate of 3.7% and a bit higher than the state rate of 3.1%.
Health care and logistics-related openings represented more than 40% of the job postings during the quarter, Otterstein said.
Home prices continued to increase. New benchmark averages were set during the quarter for median ($174,653) and average sale ($187,220) prices. The average sale price gain was about 3% above the previous quarter and nearly 8% more than a year ago. When compared to the same time frame in 2017, the third-quarter average sale price was approximately 18% higher.
Otterstein said higher prices are better for sellers, but he noted it can be challenging for people with limited income to find affordable housing. With a housing shortage, people often live in other areas and commute into the county.
More housing is becoming available.
With nearly 200 permits for new single-family construction 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 by 2024. In Beloit, a 70-unit apartment development is planned on the site of the former Kerry building on West Grand Avenue, and in downtown Janesville a 93-unit apartment development called River Flats is planned.
“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 sales tax high was $10.39 million in 2008. It took until 2013 for that number to be exceeded at $10.66 million. Every year since, those numbers have continued to rise.
“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.