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Distinguishing Features

by Cameron Macht
September 2015

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From health care in Southeast Minnesota to manufacturing in Central Minnesota, each region of the state has a concentration of occupations that distinguishes it from other parts of the state.

Minnesota has a diverse and thriving economy, with employment spread across different industries, occupations and geographies. For planning purposes, the state is divided into six distinct regions, ranging from seven counties in both the Twin Cities and Northeast Minnesota to more than 20 counties in both Northwest and Southwest Minnesota (see Map).


Map of Minnesota's Planning Regions


About 62 percent of the jobs in the state, however, are located in the Twin Cities metro, meaning that many of the unique aspects of the state's economy outside the Interstate 494-694 loop get overshadowed by the outsized influence of the Twin Cities on Minnesota's overall employment statistics (see Figure 1).


Pie chart-Figure 1: Share of Statewide Jobs


Each region has a set of occupations that distinguish it from other parts of the state - occupations that are highly concentrated due to the unique structure of the regional economy. As the primary employment center, the Twin Cities has about 80 percent of the state's computer and mathematical, legal, and business and financial occupations.

Many of the distinguishing occupations in Greater Minnesota are well known. Southeast Minnesota is world renowned for its concentration of health care practitioners and support occupations, as well as life, physical and social sciences professionals. Central Minnesota has strengths in blue collar areas like production; transportation and material moving; installation, maintenance and repair; construction and extraction; and education, training and library jobs.

Southwest and Northwest Minnesota both stand out in the field of farming, along with production and education. Northeast, meanwhile, is notable for community and social services; natural resources-related occupations like forestry; construction and extraction; and installation, maintenance and repair (see Table 1).

Table 1

Top 5 Occupation Groups by Share of Statewide Employment by Region, 2015

Central Minnesota Planning Region

Twin Cities Planning Region

SOC Occupational Group Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Share of Statewide Jobs

SOC Occupational Group Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Share of Statewide Jobs

Total, All Occupations

263,270

9.6%

Total, All Occupations

1,691,650

62.0%

Production

31,390

14.4%

Computer and Mathematical

75,220

82.2%

Education, Training and Library

21,450

13.7%

Legal

14,710

80.3%

Transportation and Material Moving

20,940

12.5%

Business and Financial Operations

124,780

78.0%

Installation, Maintenance and Repair

11,520

12.2%

Arts, Design, Entertainment and Media

27,000

74.1%

Construction and Extraction

10,980

12.0%

Architecture and Engineering

37,380

73.3%

Northeast Minnesota Planning Region

Northwest Minnesota Planning Region

SOC Occupational Group Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Share of Statewide Jobs

SOC Occupational Group Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Share of Statewide Jobs

Total, All Occupations

141,800

5.2%

Total, All Occupations

203,060

7.4%

Community and Social Services

4,440

9.0%

Farming, Fishing and Forestry

860

24.1%

Farming, Fishing and Forestry

290

8.1%

Protective Service

5,260

12.0%

Life, Physical and Social Science

1,870

7.7%

Production

24,650

11.3%

Installation, Maintenance and Repair

7,060

7.5%

Education, Training and Library

17,270

11.1%

Construction and Extraction

6,360

7.0%

Community and Social Services

5,010

10.2%

Southeast Minnesota Planning Region

Southwest Minnesota Planning Region

SOC Occupational Group Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Share of Statewide Jobs

SOC Occupational Group Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Share of Statewide Jobs

Total, All Occupations

253,990

9.3%

Total, All Occupations

177,030

6.5%

Health Care Practitioners and Technical

30,490

19.0%

Farming, Fishing and Forestry

700

19.6%

Health Care Support

13,660

15.3%

Production

27,100

12.4%

Life, Physical and Social Science

3,590

14.7%

Education, Training and Library

17,280

11.1%

Production

27,210

12.5%

Health Care Support

8,010

9.0%

Computer and Mathematical

9,220

10.1%

Transportation and Material Moving

12,930

7.7%

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics


The unique aspects of each region's economy become clearer at the occupation level using location quotients. Location quotients (LQs) are ratios that allow the region's distribution of employment to be compared with the state's distribution. If an LQ is equal to 1, then the occupation has the same share of total employment in the region as it does in the state. An LQ greater than 1 indicates an occupation with a greater share of the region's total employment than is the case in the state.

Central Minnesota

As noted above, production occupations are the most strongly concentrated in Central Minnesota, and that is reflected in the more detailed six-digit SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) codes as well. Eight of the region's top 10 LQs are concentrated in production occupations, including ophthalmic lab technicians working in the region's small optical lens manufacturing cluster; lathe and turning machine setters and painting and coating workers who serve the region's huge fabricated metal product, machinery and transportation equipment manufacturing industries; slaughterers and meat packers; and woodworking and sawing machine setters in the region's highly concentrated kitchen cabinet manufacturing sector. The highest LQ was for floor layers, serving the region's booming construction industry (see Table 2).


Table 2

Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Central Minnesota

SOC Occupational Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Location Quotient

Total, All Occupations

263,270

$16.66

1.0

Floor Layers, Except Carpet, Wood and Hard Tiles

30

$17.58

5.2

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

580

$13.00

4.7

Lathe and Turning Machine Tool Setters, Metal and Plastic

220

$20.28

4.1

Slaughterers and Meat Packers

2,620

$13.05

3.5

Woodworking Machine Setters, Except Sawing

510

$14.07

3.3

Sawing Machine Setters, Operators and Tenders, Wood

320

$16.41

3.1

Painting, Coating and Decorating Workers

150

$14.61

3.0

Etchers and Engravers

40

$18.41

3.0

Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers

820

$35.96

2.9

Coating, Painting and Spraying Machine Setters

700

$19.52

2.7

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics


Northeast Minnesota

Northeast Minnesota's natural resources and amenities provide the backdrop for the region's distinguishing occupations, covering timber industry-related positions like logging equipment operators, foresters and furnace, kiln, oven, drier and kettle operators. Other distinguishing occupations include mining-related trades like explosives workers, mobile heavy equipment mechanics and tower equipment installers; as well as tourism-related positions like tour guides and escorts (see Table 3).


Table 3

Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Northeast Minnesota

SOC Occupational Title

Estimated Regional
Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Location Quotient

Total, All Occupations

141,800

$16.58

1.0

Logging Equipment Operators

190

$17.11

19.3

Furnace, Kiln, Oven, Drier and Kettle Operators

330

$21.81

11.2

Tour Guides and Escorts

110

$13.48

6.8

Stonemasons

20

$24.31

6.4

Foresters

150

$28.77

5.9

Explosives Workers and Ordnance Handling Experts

20

$30.76

5.5

Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Except Engines

1,020

$26.11

4.8

Radio, Cellular and Tower Equipment Installers

40

$32.54

4.5

Power Plant Operators

180

$31.05

4.2

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

420

$21.81

3.9

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics


Northwest Minnesota

Growing off the region's strong agriculture and related food manufacturing industry, four of the top 10 occupations with the highest location quotients in Northwest Minnesota are food roasting, baking and drying operators; livestock farm workers; agricultural product graders and sorters; and food cooking machine operators. The rest of the region's distinguishing occupations are mental health counselors, gaming workers, cementing and gluing machine operators, bailiffs, upholsterers and high school vocational education teachers (see Table 4).


Table 4

Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Northwest Minnesota

SOC Occupational Title

Estimated Regional
Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Location Quotient

Total, All Occupations

203,060

$15.42

1.0

Food Roasting, Baking and Drying Machine Operators

170

$18.92

7.9

Farmworkers, Farm and Ranch Animals

250

$9.49

5.9

Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products

60

$18.86

5.8

Mental Health Counselors

290

$19.65

5.7

Gaming and Sports Book Writers and Runners

320

$10.65

5.2

Cementing and Gluing Machine Operators and Tenders

180

$14.36

4.9

Bailiffs

70

$18.88

4.7

Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders

420

$19.54

4.7

Upholsterers

110

$15.24

4.5

Vocational Education Teachers, Secondary School

120

$49,401 *

4.0

*OES publishes only annual wage data for teachers.

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics


Southeast Minnesota

Led by the Mayo Clinic in the Rochester metropolitan area, Southeast Minnesota is the only region with a health care-related occupation in its top 10. In fact, eight of its top 10 occupations are in that field, ranging from health care support workers to anesthesiologists. Many of these health care and life science occupations require postsecondary education and, in turn, earn healthy wages. The other two occupations were in production: food cooking machine operators and model makers (see Table 5).


Table 5

Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Southeast Minnesota

SOC Occupational Title

Estimated Regional
Employment

Median
Hourly Wage

Location Quotient

Total, All Occupations

253,990

$17.74

1.0

Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders

880

$16.86

7.8

Health Care Support Workers, All Other

2,180

$18.89

7.1

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists

2,150

$30.98

6.6

Life Scientists, All Other

440

$29.44

6.4

Biological Technicians

600

$35.15

6.1

Medical Equipment Preparers

710

$17.62

6.1

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

150

$41.68

6.0

Model Makers, Metal and Plastic

130

$16.13

5.6

Anesthesiologists

530

$85.23

5.5

Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other

900

$31.00

5.5

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics


Southwest Minnesota

Six of the top 10 occupations in Southwest Minnesota are related to agriculture in some way. They include agricultural equipment operators who plant and harvest crops, meat cutters and packers who process the region's livestock, agricultural inspectors who ensure quality food is being produced, purchasing agents who get products to and from markets, and wind turbine service technicians who help harvest the region's newest crop: wind power. The region's strong manufacturing sector also relies on the high concentration of coil winders, conveyor operators, and structural iron and steel workers. Interestingly, Southwest is the only region where the occupation with the highest location quotient is also the largest occupation in the region (see Table 6).


Table 6

Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Southwest Minnesota

SOC Occupational Title

Estimated Regional
Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Location Quotient

Total, All Occupations

177,030

$15.48

1.0

Slaughterers and Meat Packers

6,010

$13.66

11.9

Coil Winders, Tapers and Finishers

160

$17.28

5.6

Agricultural Equipment Operators

240

$14.36

5.5

Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers

720

$11.44

5.3

Purchasing Agents and Buyers, Farm Products

100

$30.64

5.1

Agricultural Inspectors

90

$21.05

4.8

Physics Teachers, Postsecondary

50

$54,813*

4.5

Conveyor Operators and Tenders

260

$14.79

4.4

Structural Iron and Steel Workers

200

$18.61

4.3

Wind Turbine Service Technicians

60

$23.28

4.2

*OES publishes only annual wage data for teachers.

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics


While some of these occupations provide a relatively small number of jobs, they still can have a large impact on the region's economy. These distinguishing occupations have grown and flourished to serve each region's unique industry mix, while also setting each region apart.

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