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Sometimes it's Hard to Let Go

northwest-minnesota-mapJanuary 15, 2016 - As we reset the calendar for 2016, it's important to understand how the region's aging population will affect future labor market and economic conditions.

Using data from the newly released 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, table 1 provides median age statistics for Northeast Minnesota. Median ages in the region are higher than the state of Minnesota's, with the exception of the city of Duluth, due to the large number of college students. Aitkin and Cook counties both have median ages of over 50 years old, making them among the oldest counties in the state. Meanwhile, the city of Duluth has a median age of 33.3 years -- four years younger than the state's median -- signaling education and job opportunities for young adults in the area.

The release of new 2010-2014 5-year estimates from the American Community Survey in December allows for non-overlapping comparison with the 2005-2009 5-year estimates. With this comparison, we can determine which counties are getting older, quicker. Aitkin, Cook, and Lake counties have had their median age increase by more than two years since 2009. On the other end of the spectrum, Carlton and St. Louis counties saw their median age increase by only .2 years in the past five years, while the state of Minnesota's median age increased by .6 years during this time frame (Table 1).

NE MN median age statistics

An important aspect of age when it comes to the labor market is the percent of those that have reached the traditional age of retirement. As previous Local Look posts have noted, the region is experiencing a tight labor market, and these conditions may be exacerbated with more and more of the baby boom generation reaching age 65. Five of the seven counties in the Arrowhead region have more than 20 percent of their population aged 65 years and older, compared to only 13.6 percent of the population for the whole state.

The population aged 65 years and older increased by more than 2.5 percent since 2009 in Aitkin, Cook, and Lake counties. In contrast, the percentage of population aged 65 years and older increased by less than 1.0 percentage point during the same time period in Carlton, Koochiching, and St. Louis counties (Table 2).

NE MN age statistics, 2005-2014

There are ways the regional economy can moderate the impact of an aging population. For example, retaining workers that have reached the traditional age of retirement can help limit the need for replacement workers, while keeping legacy knowledge and experience in-house. Another method is to recruit and retain younger workers from other regions in Minnesota and the country by highlighting the advantages of living and working in Northeast Minnesota.

For More Information

Contact Erik White at 218-302-8413.

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