While I spent the last two weeks stumbling around as an amateur demographer, the professionals at the State Demographic Center dropped a new report analyzing migration trends and patterns in Minnesota.

The 30-page document, which can be downloaded from the center's website, shows that movement in and out of Minnesota is less volatile than suggested by the alarming narrative of exodus that's taken hold with Minnesotans in recent years.

Every business owner and executive in Minnesota should read it. Know your state, your market. Susan Brower, the state demographer, told me last week she and her colleagues wrote it because so many people in Minnesota are talking about workforce and population trends these days.

"We wanted to get on paper why we're seeing what we're seeing with migration, what the scale of migration is relative to the past, relative to immigration and relative to the needs of the labor force," Brower said.

The center has more recent data than the 2022 Census Bureau figures I cited in my last two Sunday columns, and that contained some good news. After greater numbers of people moved out of the state in the two years after the pandemic, those "losses moderated in 2023," the report said.

I explored that census data because I was curious about the persistent idea that high taxes drive away some of Minnesota's richest people. The Demographic Center's report cites a summary of third-party research that found specific types of people "like millionaires and top inventors" do move away because of taxes. That array of research, though, found no "systemic evidence that this is the case for the broader population."

That's in part because the biggest group of people who move in and out of the state each year are young adults, from late teens to late 20s. They migrate for school and jobs. Minnesota's college educators wish there was less transience in that group and so do some of the state's employers.

The Demographic Center's report also underscored that I was mistaken when, using the wrong data, I wrote two weeks ago that the state was gaining people over age 65. The state has lost an average of 7,800 people over age 60 each year from 2018 through 2022, the report said.

The big picture for Minnesota hasn't changed much since people started flowing out of cold-weather states to the Sun Belt in the 1960s and 1970s.

"It's mostly important for people to know the outflow of people from Minnesota is a stable pattern," Brower said. "It's not just Minnesota, it's the Midwest. And it's not just the Midwest, it's the Midwest and the Northeast. It's a pattern that probably doesn't have much to do with individual policies, whether that's tax policy or social policy. The flows of people are operating on their own scale and according to a larger logic."

Natural growth, the net result when deaths are subtracted from births, is a bigger factor in the growth of Minnesota than migration. For a long time, the state has seen right around 100,000 people leave every year and 100,000 move in.

In the 1990s, the state saw about 15,000 more people annually move in than move out, with more coming from other states than from other countries. In the 2000s, Minnesota began losing around 4,500 people a year to other states while still gaining in overall migration because of immigrants. Then in the 2010s, the annual losses to states fell to an average of around 2,800 people while immigrants continued to more than offset them.

The two years after the pandemic, particularly 2022, saw a jump in people leaving. After I wrote last week about my mistaken reading of census data, several readers speculated in email and phone calls that outflows were greater in 2021 and 2022 because remote work led people to go to other places.

I looked at those two years because they were the latest for which data was available. Now that some 2023 numbers are in, I'm glad those readers were right. However, Brower and colleagues cautioned, "While the 2023 migration data show a return to modest out-migration, the urgency of the annual small losses is heightened among labor force shortages."

For Minnesota's businesses and employers, population data is the starting point for all decisions on hiring, expansion and marketing. Unfortunately, these trends aren't likely to change that much.

"The migration picture we have is kind of permanent," Brower said. "That's not to say it can't change in the future, but it doesn't change a whole lot year to year, decade to decade. We would need to see really massive disruptions to migration patterns domestically or a really big change in international immigration to make a difference that could be felt by our employers. It's not great news for them, but it helps ground them in the reality we're in. At least that was the intention."