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LIFE study tells us our economy is as expected

The story of the local economy told in the 2016 Fox Cities Leading Indicators for Excellence (LIFE) Study is no mystery, though no one can predict what the next chapter will bring.

We knew these things already:

PrintThe LIFE Study has been conducted every five years since 2001. It is sponsored by United Way Fox Cities, the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. The study looks at Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet counties. The four priorities for community change selected by a cross-section of more than 200 area residents in a daylong examination of the LIFE Study were: poverty, youth health, student performance, and youth safety. We will highlight different sections of the report weekly here in The Loop. Read more at

By the numbers, Calumet County saw manufacturing jobs decline by 7.5% from 2004-2014, and Winnebago County by 4.9%. Outagamie County’s manufacturing employment actually increased by 1.1%. The effect of these job losses is magnified in that manufacturing is the largest source of employment for the region’s 25 largest non-government employers.

The unemployment rate was more favorable in the Fox Cities than statewide or across the nation, while the average cost of living was lower. The wage gap between the haves and have-nots was less extreme here.

Most surprising numbers:

  • Our two health care systems – ThedaCare and Affinity – are the largest private employers in the region, with Kimberly-Clark Corp. pushed down to third place. Thrivent Financial and Plexus fill out the top five.
  • From 2009-11, there were 176 new businesses created in Calumet County, 685 in Winnebago and 1,098 in Outagamie.
  • Calumet County saw the greatest percentage gain in annual wages over the 10 years that ended in 2014 (increasing 3.1%), and had the highest annual wage in 2014 at $29,406 (Outagamie was $28,441 and Winnebago $27,295).

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