The Madison metro area has led Wisconsin’s three largest metro areas in job growth since the Great Recession, aided by robust growth in math and computer occupations.

Metro Milwaukee has seen much more modest overall job growth, with a marked decline in production occupations concentrated in the manufacturing sector.

The state’s third-largest metro, Green Bay, has seen employment grow more slowly than Madison but more rapidly than Milwaukee. Its largest employment growth was in the healthcare sector, which grew much more rapidly there than in the state as a whole.

These findings come as part of a recent Wisconsin Policy Forum report on how Wisconsin’s job market changed from 2008 to 2018.

Employment in metro Madison has grown by over 54,000 overall (16%) and in 17 of the 22 occupational groups. Employment in highly coveted computer and math occupations grew faster than any other group, more than doubling during the decade.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, employment growth has been much more modest at just 3,100 (or 0.4%) since 2008 and in only half of the 22 occupational groups. Employment in production occupations has decreased by 13,380 (or 13.3%) in metro Milwaukee since 2008, while production employment numbers grew in the Madison area and remained relatively flat statewide and in Green Bay.

These findings point to a need to continue to increase educational attainment in Wisconsin to meet future workforce demands. While Madison’s strong outcomes are driven in part by the types of employers concentrated there (state government, higher education, healthcare, and technology), its high concentration of college-educated residents is another major advantage.

Spreading the benefits of the strengthening economy to other parts of the state likely will require increased college completion in those areas, which in turn may necessitate improved educational outcomes at the K-12 level.

This information is a service of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the state’s leading resource for nonpartisan state and local government research and civic education. Learn more at

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