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Where is Everyone Going? Commuting Patterns in the Twin Cities

by Tim O'Neill
June 2016

OnTheMap: Yes, It’s One Word

While you’re stuck in traffic, have you ever wondered where everybody is going? With the U.S. Census Bureau’s OnTheMap application, you can study that very question. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, OnTheMap is an online mapping and reporting application which shows where workers are employed and where they live.1 Beyond basic resident and worker counts, the tool also allows users to break the data down by age, earnings, race, ethnicity, educational attainment, and industry characteristics. As an interactive online tool, OnTheMap’s data can be used effectively by local government bodies, economic development agencies, workforce development boards, and others interested in city emergency planning, transportation planning, site location, and economic development.2 For just a teaser, OnTheMap’s data can be used to answer the following questions3:

  • Where do young workers live who are employed in a specific geographic area?
  • Where are the workplace destinations for workers living in a particular community or neighborhood?
  • How do specific employment areas compare in terms of worker origin patterns, worker ages, monthly earnings, and industry-sector employment? How are these areas changing over time and among different demographics?
  • What percentage of high-wage workers live and work within a city versus those who commute to a nearby city?
  • How many potential customers or employees live or work near a potential site location?

In the following a couple of these questions will be analyzed for the Twin Cities seven-county metro area.

Commuting Patterns in the Twin Cities

Overall, the Twin Cities metro area is a net importer for labor. In other words, the region has more available jobs than workers to fill them. As a result, more than 242,000 workers commuted into the Twin Cities from outside the seven county region in 2014. These commuters represented about one-in-seven workers employed in the Twin Cities (see Table 1). Of these commuters, about half came in from Chisago, Isanti, Rice, Saint Croix, Sherburne, and Wright counties. It should also be noted that while total employment in the metro increased by 5.8 percent between 2004 and 2014, those workers commuting into the metro from outside increased by 12.6 percent during the same period. This trend supports the fact that the Twin Cities metro, which accounts for approximately 60 percent of the state’s total employment, continues to be a large draw for those seeking job opportunities.

While the Twin Cities metro draws in a significant number of commuters for work, the majority of workers in the area live in the region’s seven counties. Of these 1.4 million workers, nearly 60 percent live in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, with over 40 percent living in Hennepin County alone. Another quarter of these workers live in Dakota and Anoka counties, about 9 percent live in Washington County, and the remaining 8 percent live in Scott and Carver counties.

Beyond metro-wide statistics, Table 1 also showcases labor sheds at the county level. Note that with strong commuting ties between the seven metro counties, their individual labor shed statistics should not be compared to the metro-wide statistics. For example, of the approximately 330,000 workers employed in Ramsey County, about two-thirds live outside its borders. As such, Ramsey County has the highest percentage of workers commuting in from outside its borders of any metro county. Of those workers, however, nearly 80 percent travel from another county in the metro area. At the other end of the spectrum, Hennepin County has the lowest percentage of its total workers commuting in from outside its borders. Even in this instance, 73 percent of those commuting into Hennepin County come from another metro county. Those counties with more workers coming in from outside the metro area include Anoka and Washington counties. Anoka County draws in a significant number of workers from Chisago, Isanti, Sherburne, and Wright counties, while Washington County draws in workers from western Wisconsin.

Where Table 1 showcases those workers employed in the Twin Cities, Table 2 displays information on those workers living in the Twin Cities. From this data users can analyze where those living in particular geographies are commuting for work. As of 2014 there were 1.5 million workers living in the Twin Cities. Of these workers the vast majority (93.6 percent) were employed in the metro region.

Zooming in, users can study how well each metro county retains those workers living within their respective borders. Hennepin County leads the pack by a wide margin. As of 2014 nearly three-quarters of those workers residing in Hennepin County also worked in Hennepin County. Since the county has 53 percent of the metro region’s total jobs, this should come as no surprise.4 From OnTheMap also note that 65 percent of workers living in Hennepin County had a commute distance of less than 10 miles. Only about 6 percent had a commute distance of more than 25 miles. Top destinations for those workers living in Hennepin County included Bloomington, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Plymouth, and St. Paul.

Table 1: Inflow Job Counts by County, 2014

Geography

Employed in Selection Area

Employed in Selection Area but Living Outside

Employed and Living in Selection Area

Total

Commuting in from Another Metro County

Anoka County

123,779

68,106 (55.0%)

43,291 (63.6%)

55,673 (45.0%)

Carver County

34,787

20,791 (59.8%)

14,161 (68.1%)

13,996 (40.2%)

Dakota County

172,768

93,292 (54.0%)

69,267 (74.2%)

79,476 (46.0%)

Hennepin County

888,359

443,851 (50.0%)

323,281 (72.8%)

444,508 (50.0%)

Ramsey County

330,627

218,725 (66.2%)

174,130 (79.6%)

111,902 (33.8%)

Scott County

40,369

22,434 (55.6%)

16,064 (71.6%)

17,935 (44.4%)

Washington County

72,124

41,679 (57.8%)

26,519 (63.6%)

30,445 (42.2%)

Twin Cities Metro Area

1,662,813

242,165 (14.6%)

-

1,420,648 (85.4%)

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, OnTheMap program

 

As mentioned earlier, Ramsey County has a significant number of workers commuting in from surrounding counties. While these commuters stream in, those workers living in Ramsey County are streaming out. More specifically, about 56 percent of those workers living in Ramsey County commute to surrounding areas, namely Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, and Washington counties. Workers living in Hennepin and Ramsey County have shorter commutes than the rest of the metro (see Table 2).

Table 2: Outflow Jobs Counts by County, 2014

Geography

Living in Selection Area

Living in Selection Area but Employed Outside

Living and Employed in Selection Area

Workers Commuting 25 Miles or Greater

Anoka County

186,550

130,877 (70.2%)

55,673 (29.8%)

12.7%

Carver County

51,360

37,364 (72.7%)

13,996 (27.3%)

18.1%

Dakota County

218,831

139,355 (63.7%)

79,476 (36.3%)

10.0%

Hennepin County

602,458

157,950 (26.2%)

444,508 (73.8%)

5.6%

Ramsey County

253,556

141,654 (55.9%)

111,902 (44.1%)

5.7%

Scott County

73,414

55,479 (75.6%)

17,935 (24.4%)

15.0%

Washington County

131,826

101,381 (76.9%)

30,445 (23.1%)

13.4%

Twin Cities Metro Area

1,517,995

97,347 (6.4%)

1,420,648 (93.6%)

8.7%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, OnTheMap Program

 

Moving south, Dakota County retains just over 36 percent of those workers who reside within its borders. No other county in the metro but Hennepin and Ramsey retains more than 30 percent of its respective resident workforce. With the major cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul drawing in workers from Anoka, Carver, Scott, and Washington counties, workers living in each of these counties contend with longer commutes. Nearly one in five workers living in Carver County, for example, has a commute of 25 miles or greater.

Driving the Data Further

Beyond simple commuting counts, OnTheMap’s data allow users to dig into the characteristics of those living and working in different geographies. For example, both Anoka County and Carver County have a significant share of people employed in Manufacturing. Meanwhile, Hennepin County has a significant share of people employed in Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, while those employed in Ramsey County are concentrated in Educational Services and Management of Companies (see Table 3). As mentioned previously, OnTheMap’s commuting data can also be broken down by age, earnings, race, ethnicity, and educational attainment.


Table 3: Top Industries by County, 2014, Percentage of Incoming Workers within each Industry

Geography

Industry Employing the Most Incoming Workers

Industry Employing the
Second-Most Incoming Workers

Industry Employing the
Third-Most Incoming Workers

Anoka County

Manufacturing (19.5%)

Retail Trade (15.1%)

Health Care and Social Assistance (12.7%)

Carver County

Manufacturing (28.6%)

Health Care and Social Assistance (12.6%)

Educational Services (10.9%)

Dakota County

Health Care and Social Assistance (12.0%)

Manufacturing (11.8%)

Retail Trade (10.5%)

Hennepin County

Health Care and Social Assistance (15.1%)

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (9.1%)

Retail Trade (8.2%)

Ramsey County

Health Care and Social Assistance (16.8%)

Educational Services (11.0%)

Management of Companies (8.7%)

Scott County

Accommodation and Food Services (16.8%)

Manufacturing (13.1%)

Retail Trade (10.1%)

Washington County

Health Care and Social Assistance (15.2%)

Retail Trade (14.1%)

Educational Services (11.2%)

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, OnTheMap Program

 

Where do the Data Reside?

OnTheMap employment data come from several sources, including Unemployment Insurance (UI) Wage Records reported by employers, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) data collected by each state, and the U.S. Census Bureau. Discover the OnTheMap application and tutorials for using the data at the following sites:

And on a parting note, don’t use OnTheMap while driving…



1 OnTheMap Help and Documentation . United States Census Bureau, Web. 6 June 2016. <http://lehdmap3.did.census.gov/applications/help/onthemap.html#!what_is_onthemap>.

2 “OnTheMap: Local Employment Dynamics.” OnTheMap Help and Documentation. United States Census Bureau, Web. 6 June 2016. <http://lehdmap3.did.census.gov/doc/help/onthemap/OnTheMapOnePager.pdf>.

3 “Getting Started With OnTheMap.” OnTheMap Help and Documentation. United States Census Bureau, Web. 6 June 2016. <http://lehdmap3.did.census.gov/applications/help/onthemap.html#!getting_started>.

4 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Web. 7 June 2016. <mn.gov/deed/qcew>.

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