As Janesville-Beloit unemployment reaches 17%, what city leaders are doing to help small businesses

MADISON, Wis. — The Janesville-Beloit metro area has the highest unemployment rate across Wisconsin’s 12 metro areas.

According to a news release from the Department of Workforce Development, Janesville-Beloit’s unemployment rate for April 2020 year over year is 17%.

“I am honestly surprised,: said Gale Price, who serves as the Economic Development Director for the City of Janesville.  “I did not imagine that we would be on the upper end of unemployment in the state from the metro region.”

The Madison metro has the lowest unemployment rate in the metro areas at 11.8%.

Price says Janesville’s unemployment comes from three main industries – retail, manufacturing and healthcare. He says healthcare unemployment is particularly high, up 9 percent from this time in 2019.

“Because Janesville-Beloit has such a strong healthcare industry, with Mercy Health and SSM, when they furlough people, those people apply for unemployment benefits. That’s a big piece of that,” he said.

On Monday, Janesville’s city council voted unanimously to pass $100,000 in loan money for small businesses, who can now apply for up to $5,000 each. In addition, the city has put off loan payments that they’ve already extended for local businesses.

“We’re clear that we’re going to be flexible and open to new opportunities,” said council president Sue Conley.

Across municipalities for April 2020, unemployment rates increased in Wisconsin’s. 34 largest cities, according to DWD.

Unemployment rates range from a low of 9.9% in Fitchburg to 21.1% in Superior.

Officials said Lafayette County had the lowest unemployment rate for any Wisconsin county at 9.7%, while Iron and Menominee each are at a high of 26.2%.