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Study: Wisconsin's migration patterns threaten workforce

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin has seen a steep decline in net migration of families with children and this could be problematic for efforts to replace the state's aging workforce, according to a new report.

The Wisconsin Counties Association's nonpartisan research arm, Forward Analytics, recently released a study that raises concerns about the state's migration patterns. The report claims that Wisconsin doesn't have enough young people to take over jobs from baby boomers set to retire in the coming 10 to 15 years, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

"We've got to figure out how to turn that around and we've got to do it fairly quickly because baby boomers are nearing retirement," said Dale Knapp, Forward Analytics' research director.

The state's migration of children dropped below 10,000 from 2010 to 2015. Before 2010, Wisconsin added 40,000 children from outside the state over a five-year period.

Wisconsin's birthrate has also declined to its lowest in four decades.

Former Gov. Scott Walker launched a marketing campaign last year to try to lure millennials, age 21 to 35, to the state. Wisconsin has struggled to retain younger millennials, who often prefer big cities and more entertainment options.

Knapp recommends that Wisconsin instead targets families that might want to settle in the state. He says Wisconsin can offer quality schools, safe neighborhoods and recreation.

Wisconsin was successfully able to lure people in their 30s to 50s around 1990 to make up for the exodus of younger residents, many of whom were college graduates leaving the state, he said.

Knapp said the issue is that states across the country are facing an aging population and declining birthrate.

"So we have to figure out what makes us different, what makes us more attractive than Iowa, Illinois, Indiana or Minnesota. So we can attract those workers," Knapp said. "Our long-term economy really depends on it."

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