Report says state job growth lags behind other states

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MILWAUKEE, EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU, AP) -- A new report blames Wisconsin's aging population and lack of business start-ups for job growth that has lagged behind other states since the mid-1990s.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance report shows Wisconsin consistently beat national job growth rates in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But since 1996, the state has outperformed the nation in creating jobs just 27 percent of the time.

Between 2002 and 2011, Wisconsin's growth in workers between 18 and 64 trailed 33 other states. The report says the state's aging population and lack of business start-ups are leaving Wisconsin without enough working-age adults and enough new companies to sustain growth seen in other states.

After years of schooling and working in other states, Matthew Larson and Katie Miettunen Larson opened up their own orthodontics office, Larson Orthodontics Specialists on Clairemont Avenue in Eau Claire, last Mar.

"We kind of worked for other locations and then kind of really decided to start our own place and got pretty excited by it and took a little bit of planning and work to get together, but this worked out really well," Matthew Larson said.

But the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance said there aren't enough people like the Larsons coming into the state.

"We're growing at about one-third slower than the rest of the country for the last decade, and of course, we're aging," Alliance president Todd Berry said. "In terms of new firm creation we are in the bottom five to 10 states in the country."

With the nation largely out-performing Wisconsin in job growth, the Eau Claire chamber president and C.E.O. said the city is still doing well.

"When you've got 88 percent of your businesses that are going to stay the same or grow, I think that's a good sign, maybe a little against the trend of the state," Bob McCoy said. "We haven't seen necessarily a large amount of new companies. We've seen internal growth from companies."

The Larsons said making the move back to Katie's home town of Eau Claire has been a success and encourage others to do the same.

"We've been really happy with how everything is going," Matthew said.

"We are planning to expand and hire some new assistants, so we're actually in the process of doing that now," Katie said.

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