State leaders have been cheering a spate of good economic news of late. Most recently, in announcing that the jobless rate had fallen to 4.0 percent in the Twin Cities metro area, they noted that was the lowest rate for any metropolitan area in the nation.
A statewide unemployment rate of 4.2 percent also takes the state close to that full employment range. Even Central Minnesota, where job growth is more difficult, is showing signs of improvement. Right here in Morrison County, a two-year decline in employment was reversed, with 16,483 people working here in May compared to 16,146 a year ago.
We don’t want to overhype the success, because one year does not create a trend. The all-time high employment mark for the county was set in 2011, when 17,325 were working. The period of 2009-2011 ended the last upward trend of three or more years in the county.
While the metro area and outstate regional centers have been leading most of the growth in Minnesota for decades, job creation in most of Greater Minnesota has been harder to come by.
Thus, while Stearns County reached its all-time high in May employment this year, our other neighbors are still trying to regain what has been lost recently. Cass and Crow Wing counties both showed a loss of jobs from May 2013, Benton County set its all-time employment high for May in 2007, Todd County in 2003 and Mille Lacs County in 2001.
A growing concern statewide is the labor force participation rate, which is all those people working and looking for work compared to the number of all adults. The statewide participation rate is now 70.3 percent, the lowest it has been since 1983. With the Baby Boomers entering their retirement years, most people wanting to work will find jobs, but economic growth will continue to be difficult.
All elected officials say they want to create more jobs, but job creation needs more than lip service. It takes an educated, diligent, sufficiently large work force plus an economic environment that encourages entrepreneurs to act on their dreams. Balancing the cost of government with the need for economic freedom is never easy.
So for now, we should all celebrate the addition of 337 jobs in our county over the past 12 months, and hope it turns into a growth trend that will help us regain the other 842 jobs we have lost since 2011. The county’s 5.4 percent jobless rate is the best since the Great Recession began in 2007.