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The Madison area has experienced strong job growth during the past decade, driven by gains in the technology sector, according to a new report.

Between 2008 and 2018, Madison added 54,000 jobs overall, or about 16% growth, according to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The report reflects a shift in Madison and across the state toward jobs with higher wages and underscores the effect Madison’s highly educated workforce has on attracting job growth.

About 45% of Madison residents 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 35% in the Milwaukee area and 27% in the Green Bay area.

Madison’s job growth in the wake of the Great Recession was fueled particularly by the high-paying technology sector. In computer and mathematical occupations, for example, jobs more than doubled in the past 10 years, outpacing the growth in the technology sector in other Wisconsin metropolitan areas and in the state as a whole.

Overall, the number of computer and mathematical jobs during the past decade in Wisconsin grew nearly 50%. The number in Milwaukee increased 26%, and the number in Green Bay grew 56%.

Tech-sector job growth in the Madison area comes as high-paying jobs across the state have generally grown at a faster pace than lower-paying occupations. According to the Policy Forum report, employment in the 11 highest-paying occupations, with median wages of at least $42,000 a year, increased by 114,870 jobs since 2008, while employment in the 11 lowest-paying occupations, with median annual wages of less than $42,000, has declined by 42,990 jobs.

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An exception to the increase in high-paying jobs is the high growth in the low-paying personal care and service sector, which includes personal care aides, hairstylists and child care workers. That sector, which has a median wage of $23,870 per year, grew the most statewide during the past decade, with 42,240 more jobs, a 56% increase.

While Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector has begun to show signs of weakness, it has added jobs in the Madison area disproportionate to most other Wisconsin metro areas. Between 2008 and 2018, production occupations, which are mostly concentrated in the manufacturing sector, grew 16% in the Madison area.

That runs counter to a decline of 13% in the Milwaukee metro area, and a decline of 1% across the state as a whole. Recent figures from the state Department of Workforce Development show a continued jobs decline in the state’s factories, with Wisconsin manufacturers employing 7,700 fewer people in October compared with the same time last year.

Despite job gains in high-paying sectors, the Policy Forum notes Wisconsin needs to be proactive in attracting workers to the state. If current trends hold, Wisconsin within the next two decades could experience the first population decline in at least a generation, prompting myriad economic and political consequences.

The number of babies born in the state in 2018 declined to 64,008, down 12% since 2007 and the fewest since 1973, according to a report by Forward Analytics, a division of the Wisconsin Counties Association.

A decline in the number of births in the state means growth in out-of-state and international migration is important to prevent a decline in the state’s population.

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