Aaron J. Brown is an author and radio producer who teaches at Hibbing Community College. Years of writing about Iron Range news, history, culture and politics have culminated in his blog MinnesotaBrown.com. He lives on the western Mesabi Iron Range in Itasca County with his family.

Politics in jobs data obscures greater challenge for Northern Minnesota

Posted by: Aaron Brown under Politics Updated: June 20, 2014 - 11:45 AM

This week the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) released new employment numbers. The news was good:

The agency said the state has added 45,617 jobs in the past year, a growth rate of 1.6 percent, compared with a U.S. growth rate of 1.8 percent during that period. Since January 2011, the state has gained 154,300 jobs.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate in May was 6.3 percent.

“Minnesota’s unemployment rate is at the lowest level in seven years, which is yet another indicator of our improving economy,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “It is also encouraging to see growth occurring in Minnesota’s construction and manufacturing sectors, which have each added more than 9,000 jobs in the past year.”

You can read the data at the bottom of this post, but before we get there we should review some political background. When Stewart Mills announced his run for Congress against Rep. Rick Nolan, he joined other Republican candidates in describing troubling unemployment figures that signaled Democratic failures. These new jobs numbers run completely afoul of that assertion, something that numerous people from Democratic circles have pointed out to me and anyone else who will listen. Indeed, from a statewide standpoint it's going to get very hard for the GOP to argue that two years of DFL rule in state politics have ruined the economy. They might not like the policy, but that's different than rising unemployment and slowing business growth. Those things just aren't happening.

That being said, I'm not willing to say everything is hunky dory. It would appear from the numbers that Northern Minnesota's employment numbers are growing slower than those of the rest of the state. That might sound like a political point for Mills, but we should resist the urge to point fingers over this. The reason Northern Minnesota's economy is stagnate, especially here on the Iron Range, has everything to do with our lack of economic diversity and our aging demographics, and virtually nothing to do with radical environmentalism. If you hear the opposite, you're talking to someone who doesn't want to deal with the real problem.

Frankly, while Republicans should rightfully shoulder a bigger responsibility for the obstructionism and extremism that has permeated modern politics, both the GOP and DFL have offered precious little to address Northern Minnesota's persistent struggles to modernize. What has been done needs to be prioritized far ahead of much of what we talk about in state political roundtables. I talked about this in a recent interview on AM 950 in the Twin Cities. I don't know how well my style translates to partisan talk radio, but I gave the straight stuff as best I could.

Here are the data:

 

Seasonally adjusted

 

Not seasonally adjusted

 

Unemployment Rate

May   2014

April  2014

May 2014

May  2013

Minnesota  

4.6

4.7

 4.2

4.7 

U.S.  

6.3

6.3

 6.1

7.3 

Employment

May 2014

April  2014

May ‘13- May ‘14 Level Change

May ‘13- May ‘14 % Change

Minnesota  

 2,817,000

2,806,700 

45,617

1.6

U.S.

 138,463,000

138,246,000 

 2,399,000

1.8

   

Over The Year Employment Growth By Industry Sector (NSA)

 

OTY Job Change

OTY Growth Rate (%)

U.S. OTY            Growth Rate (%)

Total Non-Farm Employment

45,617

1.6

1.8

Logging and Mining

261

3.8

5.2

Construction

9,447

9.2

3.3

Manufacturing

9,404

3.1

0.9

Trade, Trans. and Utilities

1,600

0.3

2.2

Information

462

0.9

-1.3

Financial Activities

-1,586

-0.9

0.6

Prof. and Bus. Services

8,667

2.5

3.5

Ed. and Health Services

8,917

1.8

1.8

Leisure and Hospitality

5,736

2.2

2.7

Other Services

541

0.5

0.9

Government

2,158

0.5

0.1

Metropolitan Statistical Area

OTY Employment Change (#, NSA)

OTY Employment Change (%, NSA)

Minneapolis-St. Paul MN-WI MSA

28,700

1.6

Duluth-Superior MN -WI MSA

96

0.1

Rochester MSA

438

0.4

St. Cloud MSA

4,003

3.9

Mankato MSA

1,102

2.0

 Source: Minnesota DEED  

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