What are the forces moving the Minnesota economy? Adam Belz tries to identify the trends and show the connections between Minnesota and the larger U.S. and global economies. You can connect with him on Twitter: @adambelz
Minnesota has been outpacing Wisconsin in population growth for a few years.
Here's why. All data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
1. More babies are being born in Minnesota than Wisconsin, by a small margin.
2. More people are (not to put too fine a point on it) dying in Wisconsin.
3. And while both states are losing population to other states within the U.S...
4. ...Minnesota is attracting a lot more international migration.
5. So when you add up the higher number of births, lower number of deaths, lower losses to domestic migration and higher gains from international migration, Minnesota is adding twice as much population as Wisconsin.
After dropping off building supplies for a taconite plant near Nashwauk, the last oceangoing ship of the year departed Duluth on Saturday.
The Palmerton, Duluth’s last “saltie” of 2014, sailed under the aerial lift bridge and out into Lake Superior at 12:26 a.m. Saturday, according to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. The 436-foot Antigua-flagged ship is now on a 2,342 mile journey to the Atlantic Ocean and must get through locks at Lake Erie and Lake Ontario before they close on Dec. 31.
Adele Yorde, spokeswoman for the port authority, said the Palmerton was dropping off supplies for the Essar Steel plant, which is under construction east of Grand Grapids. The ship was empty when it left the port.
“It left light when it left here,” she said. “They talked about making one last stop in Eerie, Pennsylvania.”
The last saltie of the year departing Duluth is a sure sign of the deep freeze of winter, but shipping season isn’t quite over for the Twin Ports. Lakers, ships that stay within the Great Lakes, will continue to sail out of the Port of Duluth-Superior until Jan. 15 as they rush to stock steel mills to the south with enough iron ore to get through the winter.
Despite the most brutal winter in decades to start the 2014 season, year-to-date shipments through the Port of Duluth-Superior have nearly caught up to where they were at this time last year, thanks to plenty of rain, which allows ships to carry more cargo without scraping against the bottom in shallow spots.
“Higher water levels across the system this year helped tremendously in making up time and tonnage,” said Vanta Coda, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority’s executive director, in a statement. “Thousand-footers, for example, were able to load to another foot deeper draft allowing some 3,000 additional tons of iron ore or coal on every downbound delivery.”
Shipments of iron ore to domestic and Canadian steel mills are up nearly 6 percent compared to a year ago. Increases in commodities like limestone and salt, plus general cargo shipments, helped offset declines in coal and grain shipping this season.
Though ice has already formed on Lake Superior and elsewhere in the system, shipping has not been significantly impacted so far this winter.
(The Palmerton leaves Duluth-Superior early Saturday. Photo courtesy the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.)
The higher minimum wage has not put a crimp on restaurant and hotel hiring.
Restaurants and hotels in Minnesota added 5,000 jobs in November on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the largest monthly gain on record, according to the latest figures from the state.
“Our increase in minimum wage is not only raising the earning power of workers in this sector, but is also not having those negative impacts on employment that many had feared,” said Steve Hine, the state labor market economist.
Legislators passed a law this spring increasing the minimum wage for most workers — those employed at companies with more than $500,000 in annual revenue — from $7.25 per hour to $8 per hour in August. The wage steps up $1 per hour next year and another 50 cents in August 2016 to $9.50 per hour.
Some fear that the minimum wage increase would discourage businesses from hiring workers. So far that has not happened. October was a rough month for the category, but September and November, the two best months for hiring at hotels and restaurants in Minnesota on record, more than made up for it.
Photo: A waiter brings drinks to patrons at Parka on East Lake Street in 2013. (By Marlin Levison)
Minnesota employers added 6,600 jobs in November and October's gains were adjusted upward slightly as the state posted its fourth straight month of above-average job gains.
The state's unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent, its lowest level since May 2001, according to seasonally-adjusted figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Hotels and restaurants led all sectors, adding 5,000 jobs in November. Financial services added 3,100. Construction shed 3,500 positions and retail lost 2,500.
The ratio of unemployed people to online job postings fell below 1 in October and fell further in November.
“We now have more job postings online than we have unemployed individuals,” said Steve Hine, the state labor market economist. “In November that ratio really fell to .86 – that is 86 unemployed individuals per 100 online job postings.”
Wages, however, remain basically flat, which is something to watch in coming months, Hine said.
“We’re seeing the improvement in jobs and in unemployment, but that missing ingredient really continues to be an improvement in wages,” Hine said.
The state has added more than 35,000 jobs in the past four months. Thanks to a tepid first half of the year, however, job growth in the state over the past 12 months is 1.8 percent, compared with a U.S. growth rate of 2 percent during that period.
In the state's metropolitan statistical areas, Mankato's job growth was 3.6 percent for the past 12 months, Minneapolis-St. Paul was up 2.1 percent, St. Cloud was up 1.3 percent and Rochester was up 0.8 percent. The Duluth-Superior metropolitan area saw employment fall 0.2 percent over the same period.
The unemployment rate for black Minnesotans turned upward in November, to 11.2 percent. That's still well below the 14.8 percent a month earlier, but the recent trend is toward higher unemployment.
"While we were seeing significant improvement in the unemployment rate for blacks, the last couple months have been quite a different story," said Hine.
This post has been updated.