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An Outlook: Door County Wages Continue to Lag

A few years ago, I wrote a column that used a report from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue on Door County’s adjusted gross income (AGI) to discuss our county’s earnings per household. Although an AGI report from any given year does have some limitations, I have always maintained that it can provide the best snapshot of the working money a household had to draw from during the course of the preceding year. 

I received pushback on that particular column from some people who either misunderstood what the data was showing or who simply could not accept that the majority of Door County households were living with such limited incomes.

This month I found a data table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a nonpartisan group that “collect(s) information to produce statistics on the U.S. labor market, price changes, working conditions and productivity” and is the “principal fact-finding agency for the federal government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics.”

This particular table breaks down the weekly earnings of workers in every county in Wisconsin, comparing earnings at the end of the second quarter in 2021 to the end of the second quarter in 2022.

Let’s start with the good news from this report. Over the course of one year, from June 2021 to June 2022, the average earnings of a worker in Door County increased 8.2%. Two other counties matched Door County’s 8.2% increase, and only 12 other counties had increases greater than 8.2%. Because there are 72 counties in Wisconsin, that means the Door County wage increase was better than 79% of the other counties in the state.

Unfortunately, that marks the end of the good news. In the same table, the BLS reports that the average gross weekly wage for a worker in Door County was $792. That ties with Forest County, and only nine counties had a lower weekly wage. So that means 61 counties had a gross weekly wage higher than that of Door County and that our average gross weekly wage ranks in the bottom 15% of Wisconsin counties.

The average gross weekly wage for the entire state came in at $1,097, which translates into a gross annual income of $57,044. By comparison, a Door County worker, at $792 gross earnings per week, has a gross annual income of $41,184, or $15,806 less than the state average. Another way to look at this is that a worker in Door County earns 72% of what workers in the rest of the state earn.

Since I began looking at wages in the early 1990s, Door County has consistently been between 70% and 75% of the state average, and this table shows that we are still solidly there, despite an 8.2% increase from 2021 to 2022. 

Obviously, our seasonality plays a role in this, and the high number of jobs we have in hospitality and food service – traditionally two of the lower-paying sectors – is a significant factor. But in an era when we have a shortage of workers and high housing costs (particularly in Door County), this wage level becomes a significant impediment to addressing either of those concerns.

Find the full BLS report at beta.bls.gov/maps/cew/WI.