Minnesota's economy is improving, but the improvement has been uneven.
Minneapolis is doing better than St. Paul. The western suburbs are doing better than the eastern suburbs. Mankato is doing well, but all the rural areas around it are bleeding jobs.
Last week, the state issued new revised job numbers by county through the third quarter of 2013, and they give us new perspective on how different parts of the state are faring.
Over the last 10 years, the top five counties for job creation have been:
1. Pennington County, northwest Minnesota (we've written about these guys before)
2. Jackson County, southwest Minnesota
3. Benton County, east side of St. Cloud
4. Stevens County, western Minnesota
5. Sherburne County, straddles the orbits of St. Cloud and the northwest suburbs of MSP
The bottom five counties for job creation are:
1. Watonwan County, southern Minnesota
2. Waseca County, just east of Mankato
3. Traverse County, western Minnesota
4. Faribault County, southern Minnesota
5. Aitkin County, north of the Twin Cities
A lot of the counties where work opportunities have shrunk are rural counties with small populations.
Looking at the Twin Cities metro, which is the driver of the state economy, there's a clear east-west divide. Hennepin County and the west metro are healthier than Ramsey County and the east metro. That phenomenon was identified by state labor economists in a report on employment by city, and the Pioneer Press had a lengthy story on how Minneapolis has recovered the jobs it lost in the recession, but St. Paul has not.
It's a tale of two cities. However, there's enough cross-over between the two cities that the gap is less meaningful than it would otherwise be. As an urban planner once told me, "St. Paul is the luckiest Rust Belt city in the country, because it's next door to Minneapolis."