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Southwest Region

southwest minnesota mapSouthwest Minnesota is a national leader in agricultural production, and renewable energy.

The region's thriving manufacturing sector includes food processing, machinery, printing, metal products, and computers and electronic products.

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Food Manufacturing: Cooking Up Job Opportunities in Southwest Minnesota

9/27/2021 9:00:00 AM

Luke Greiner

With 30,065 jobs at 606 establishments, Manufacturing was once again the largest employing industry in Southwest Minnesota, accounting for 18% of total employment in 2020. That is the highest concentration of Manufacturing employment of the six planning regions and makes it the only region where Manufacturing is still the largest industry, just ahead of Health Care & Social Assistance.

Southwest Minnesota is home to about 6% of total employment in the state, but 10% of total Manufacturing jobs statewide. The largest Manufacturing sector in Southwest Minnesota is Food Manufacturing, with 104 establishments providing 11,260 jobs. That means nearly two in every five Manufacturing jobs in the region are in Food Manufacturing. Even more impressively, that is 25% of the Food Manufacturing jobs in the state.

Unlike some other major subsectors that were hit hard during the pandemic recession, Food Manufacturing continued adding jobs in the region and in the state over the past year. While employers in Southwest lost nearly 11,700 jobs from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2020, and are still down 8,475 jobs over the year, Food Manufacturers cut just 29 jobs in the first quarter, but added over 650 jobs over the year (see Figure 1).

Industry Employment in Southwest Minnesota

As noted above, Southwest has a very high concentration of employment in Food Manufacturing occupations. Southwest has more than one in every four jobs for Meat, Poultry & Fish Cutters and Trimmers & Slaughterers and Meat Packers in the state. Both of those jobs pay above $15 an hour at the median and can be started with a high school diploma or less.

For job seekers looking for new opportunities in a growing field, the Food Manufacturing industry in Southwest Minnesota brings a lot to the table. Some occupations that are in demand offer lower wages – such as bakers, packers and packagers, laborers and material movers, and production worker helpers, which all reported median hourly wages around $15 per hour. But there are several occupations that offer higher wages – including first-line supervisors, industrial machinery mechanics, food batchmakers, industrial truck and tractor operators, and general maintenance and repair workers, with each earning median wages above $20 per hour (see Table 1). All but one of these occupations could be started with a high school diploma and on-the-job training, with only industrial machinery mechanics requiring a vocational award.

Table 1. Wage and Employment Estimates for the Top 15 Occupations in Demand in Food Manufacturing in Southwest Minnesota

Occupational Title Estimated Regional Employment Median Hourly Wage Percent of Statewide Employment
Total, All Occupations 166,690 $19.34 6.2%
Packaging and Filling Machine Operators 1,010 $17.55 12.2%
Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers 1,400 $17.05 34.2%
Food Batchmakers 690 $22.82 14.8%
Slaughterers and Meat Packers 1,400 $15.31 25.0%
Packers and Packagers, Hand 480 $15.30 6.3%
Laborers and Freight, Stock and Material Movers 2,390 $15.46 5.9%
Helpers--Production Workers 450 $15.19 9.3%
Bakers 80 $13.95 2.8%
First-Line Supervisors of Production Workers 1,040 $30.46 8.8%
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators 790 $22.08 8.6%
Industrial Machinery Mechanics 820 $25.32 10.3%
Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers and Weighers 760 $18.79 7.3%
Maintenance and Repair Workers, General 1,500 $21.39 7.1%
Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders N/D $19.12* N/D
Food Processing Workers, All Other 110 $17.29 13.4%
* - Minnesota wage data; Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

Manufacturing Month event information and resources for employers, educators, students and job seekers:

For More Information

Contact Labor Market Analysts Luke Greiner at 320-308-5378 or Mark Schultz or reach out to your local CareerForce location.

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