7/17/2019 9:00:00 AM
Luke Greiner, Mark Schultz
While Minnesota has enjoyed a steady increase in labor force participants year after year, the Southwest planning region has experienced ebbs and flows since 2000. In fact, there have been three periods during this time in which the regional labor force saw dramatic decreases, including a drop of almost 6,000 available workers from 2001 to 2007. As the Great Recession set in, workers flooded back into the labor market, reaching a new peak of 225,616 workers in 2009.
As the economy began to recover, the region again saw declines from 2009 to 2014, losing over 7,450 participants, to a new low of 218,153 workers. Southwest then saw a one-year jump of more than 4,700 additional workers, followed by another series of losses over the next three years. At the end of the roller coaster ride, the net result was an increase of only 51 labor force participants between 2000 to 2018, but a decrease of almost 5,300 workers since the peak in 2009 (Figure 1).
The region’s unemployment rate has seen somewhat similar ebbs and flows, also peaking in 2009 before seeing a fairly steady decline through 2018. Going back to 2000, the unemployment rate in Southwest has decreased by 0.3 percent, indicating a healthy economy and a tight labor market. Since its peak in 2009, the rate dropped from 6.9 to 3.1 percent (Figure 2).
These reductions in the labor force and unemployment rate have led to a troublesome reality in which the job seeker-per-vacancy ratio has dropped to 0.6-to-1. That means that for every 10 job openings, only six unemployed people were actively seeking work. As a result, many companies are struggling to fill their job vacancies, prompting some employers to adopt incentives such as higher starting wages, hiring bonuses, educational reimbursement, or flexible scheduling.