Estimates show third straight year of Milwaukee County population decline

Metro Milwaukee population growth ranks 269th in country

Economic indicators

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:07 am

Milwaukee County’s population has dropped by nearly 6,800 over the last three years, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, including a 0.34 percent decline from 2016 to 2017.

The drop left the county with an estimated 952,085 residents as of July 1, 2017. It was the third consecutive year with a decline, but the population is still up nearly 0.5 percent since the 2010 census.

Economic indicators

For the second year in a row, the decline in Milwaukee County’s population means the broader metro area – which also includes Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties – saw basically no population growth over the last year. Waukesha was up 0.6 percent, Washington increased 0.54 percent and Ozaukee was up 0.29 percent from 2016. The area’s population has grown by 1.3 percent since 2010. The WOW counties on their own are up nearly 2.1 percent

Wisconsin added 22,566 residents statewide, a 0.39 percent increase from 2017 and up 1.91 percent since 2010.

Compared to other states, Wisconsin is in the lower half for population growth. The state ranks 40th since 2010 and was 30th in 2017. Seven states – Texas, North Dakota, Utah, Florida, Colorado, Nevada and Washington – and the District of Columbia have seen double digit percentage increases in their population since 2010.

In the Midwest, Wisconsin only outpaces Ohio, up 1.06 percent, Michigan, up 0.8 percent and Illinois, down 0.22 percent, in population growth since 2010. Along with those states, Missouri, Kansas and North Dakota also had worse growth than Wisconsin last year.

News of the slower population growth comes a day after lawmakers approved $6.8 million in funding for a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. marketing plan aimed at convincing Midwest millennials, veterans and alumni of Wisconsin colleges and universities to move to the state.

An initial version of the campaign launched in Chicago this year. Mark Maley, a WEDC spokesman, said the first two-plus months of the campaign, which launched Jan. 10, have been a success. He pointed to agency data showing 76 percent of the 110,000 visits to, the campaign landing page, have been from the paid media efforts. There have been 3,600 home searches and 1,900 job searches on the site.

“There is no question that Chicago has many great amenities, however, we want to ensure that Chicagoans who may be considering a move are aware of all Wisconsin has to offer,” Maley said.

Wisconsin has found success attracting businesses across the Illinois border, particularly into Kenosha County. That area has also been among the bright spots for population growth, up 0.39 percent last year and 1.26 percent since 2010.

The stronger growth, however, has been in the rest of the state. Metro Madison’s population was up 1.05 percent last year and is up 8.06 percent since 2010. The Appleton area is next with 4.64 percent growth since 2010, including 0.78 percent last year. Other top areas include Green Bay, Eau Claire, La Crosse-Onalaska and Oshkosh-Neenah, all up more than 0.5 percent last year and more than 2 percent since the last census.

By comparison, 63 metro areas in the country have seen double-digit percentage increases in population since 2010. The top five during that period include The Villages in Florida, up nearly 34 percent, Austin, Texas, up 23.3 percent, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, up 23.2 percent, Greeley, Colorado, up 20.5 percent and Midland, Texas, up 20.5 percent.

Metro Milwaukee’s 1.31 percent increase was only the 269th largest population increase out of 382 metro areas over the same time period.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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