by Luke Greiner
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Minnesota boasted a 69.9 percent labor force participation rate (LFPR) in 2015, the third highest in the country. In essence, the LFPR represents the percentage of the population that is either working or actively seeking work, either employed or unemployed. The labor force participation rate is a valuable measure of the available and potential labor force and also helps us understand other forces that shape the economic climate within different regions. The map below demonstrates how counties within Minnesota have large variations in LFPR, which are affected by various factor including economic cycles, wages, school enrollment, and marital status.
Regardless of the county, participation rates reflect how residents are responding to economic conditions and the rewards of being employed. For instance, at 53 percent, the lowest county LFPR is found in Aitkin County, most likely the result of a combination of demographic and economic influences. The county’s relatively high unemployment rate (8.1%) during the five year period from 2010 to 2014 likely drove down participation as workers perceived less opportunity and stopped looking for work. Aitkin County also has a much older population, with nearly 29 percent of residents aged 65 years or older. Furthermore, average annual wages for jobs in Aitkin County were $33,020 in 2015, significantly lower than the state average of $53,560.
Scott County on the other hand had the highest rate in the state at 77 percent. Unemployment rates in Scott County were about 1 percent lower than the state from 2010-2014, residents are much younger than is typical with only 8.6 percent 65 years or older, and the median household income was $86,510, which was over $25,000 higher than the state median.