It's good to hear substantive outside perspective (especially when it validates belief in Minnesota exceptionalism), and regional economists at Wells Fargo in North Carolina have given us both.
They published a thoroughly bullish summary of the health of the Minnesota economy in their April outlook:
Even amid some slowing in the manufacturing sector and declining energy production in the Bakken, Minnesota’s economy remains a real standout. The North Star State’s unemployment rate has held steady at an exceptionally low 3.7 percent, or 1.8 percentage points below the national average. Overall payroll gains are slightly below average, but some slowdown was to be expected as the economy appears to have reached something close to full employment.
That's the view from Charlotte, N.C., where Wachovia used to be headquartered and a lot of economists in what's now Wells Fargo are stationed. Those include Mark Vitner, Michael Wolf and Alex Moehring, the economists who write the Minnesota outlook.
(Workers pour concrete at aparking ramp between the under- construction
Wells Fargo towers and the new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, early March 2015.)
The authors caution that Minnesota must attract more population (including by "in-migration"), and they point out the pain of the job cuts at Target and on the Iron Range. But they say that most everything else about the state's economy is healthy. It's growing, well-positioned and likely to continue to outperform national averages:
Minnesota’s economic trajectory has been impressive and despite several major headwinds, the state should continue to post solid gains. The diversity of the state’s economy has allowed Minnesota to weather storms better than its peers and helped to foster broad-based growth. Manufacturing is beginning to bounce back and should continue to make gains as the national and global economies demand more of the myriad goods that are produced in the state. The labor market is also exceptionally tight and has led to stronger wage gains, which should boost incomes and fuel gains in retail sales, household services and leisure and entertainment. All of these advances should bolster the housing market, which is already looking significantly better than last year. Stronger population gains and more in-migration will be needed to move beyond recent growth rates and that may happen to some degree in 2015, as growth in surrounding areas slows relative to Minnesota and the relatively high level of job openings in the North Star State pull job seekers in from other states.
That's a pretty hearty endorsement. I'll add that estimated Latino unemployment in Minnesota fell 3 percentage points in a year, to 5.1 percent. That's a huge drop and I have no idea what the dynamics are there. Ideas?
Black Minnesotans, however, are not faring well in the job market. Black worker unemployment is estimated at 12.4 percent. That's worse than a year ago and now about 2 percentage points higher than the national average.
And because white unemployment in Minnesota is so low -- 3.1 percent in March -- the disparity between Minnesota's 330,000 blacks and its 4,700,000 whites is greater than the disparity in most states in the nation.