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Job Vacancies are Way Up in 2017

by Oriane Casale
September 2017


Minnesota saw the largest number of job vacancies on record during second quarter 2017. Last spring Minnesota employers were looking to fill 122,900 vacancies. This is up 26 percent from one year ago. Because the number of unemployed people has remained relatively steady over that period, Minnesota now has slightly more job vacancies than unemployed people statewide.

The increase in vacancies was distributed across the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota as was evidence of a very tight labor market. The Twin Cities, which had 73,900 vacancies or 60.1 percent of all statewide vacancies, saw a bump of 36.8 percent from one year ago. Greater Minnesota, with 49,100 vacancies, saw a bump of 12.6 percent from one year ago. The Twin Cities continues to have a ratio of less than one (0.8) unemployed persons to every one job vacancy, while the ratio in Greater Minnesota is 1.1 unemployed persons to each job vacancy.

The median wage offer across all vacancies, $14.39, was up 2.8 percent from one year ago. The median wage offer was $15.35 in the Twin Cities and $13.00 in Greater Minnesota. Statewide, 55 percent of vacancies offered health care benefits. Also statewide, 20 percent of all vacancies were in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry, followed by Accommodation and Food Service (17 percent), Retail Trade (15 percent), and Manufacturing (9 percent).

By occupational group Food Preparation and Serving, with a median wage offer of $11.31 per hour, and Sales and Related, with a median wage offer of $12.22 per hour, had the most job vacancies followed by Personal Care and Service, with a median wage offer of $11.50 per hour, and Healthcare Practitioners and Technical, with a median wage offer of $26.11 per hour.

Only 32 percent of vacancies required some level of post-secondary education or training beyond a high school diploma. More required experience, however. Forty-three percent required one or more years of work experience. Figure 1 demonstrates that wage is very dependent on skill level as measured by educational attainment and previous work experience.

The single occupation with the most job vacancies during second quarter 2017 was Personal Care Aides (PCA) with 6,595 openings. With a median wage offer of $11.53 per hour, this occupation also had the largest increase in openings, up 95 percent from one year ago. Most PCA vacancies require no education or experience, and 72 percent of them were for part time work. The top five occupations with the largest growth in vacancies from one year ago were all large occupations with median wage offers below the median wage offer for all occupations (Table 1).

Table 1. Top Five Occupations with the Largest Increase in Vacancies from One Year Ago, Minnesota, Second Quarter 2017
Occupation Q2 2017 Vacancies Percent Increase Number Increase Median Wage Wage Offer Increase
Total, All Occupations 122,900 26.0% 25,349 $14.39 2.8%
Personal Care Aides 6,595 94.7% 3,207 $11.53 5.1%
Retail Salespersons 6,492 87.8% 3,035 $11.54 4.1%
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners 4,744 143.3% 2,794 $12.98 30.1%
Combined Food Preparation and Serving 4,583 51.0% 1,547 $10.77 10.1%
Cashiers 3,613 57.1% 1,313 $10.81 7.7%
Source: Minnesota Job Vacancy Survey, 2017, second quarter, DEED

Which Jobs are Seeing the Most Openings?

As Table 1 shows, although all of the top five occupations adding vacancies over the year were low wage occupations, they saw increases in wage offers in excess of the increase across all vacancies. Of the 84 occupations with over 100 more vacancies in second quarter 2017 compared to one year previous, the weighted average median wage offer was up 7.4 percent, showing very strong wage growth among many high demand occupations.

Within this category the largest occupations with increases in wage offers above 15 percent over the year included secretaries and administrative assistants, mechanical engineers, maids and housekeeping cleaners, substance abuse and behavioral disorders counselors, construction laborers, food prep workers, dishwashers, electrical equipment assemblers, food service supervisors, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, and food servers, nonrestaurant, a combination of low, medium, and high paying occupations.

Table 2 looks at wage offers by educational and experience requirements of job vacancies. Overall, increases in wage offers over the year were strong at the low end of the wage/skill spectrum. This is probably a result of both increases in the minimum wage as well as a very tight labor market – think about all the "help wanted" signs you've been seeing around town. But increases in wage offers were also strong for jobs requiring an Associate's or Bachelor's degree. Table 2 also shows that by work experience requirements, the middle tier of jobs saw the largest increase, with wage offers up 9 percent over the year for jobs requiring some work experience.

Overall, only the highest skill/wage jobs saw an over-the-year decline in wage offers: wage offers for job openings requiring an advanced degree and those requiring work experience related to the position lost ground (see Table 2).

Table 2. Median Wage Offer and Wage Change by Educational and Experience Requirements, Minnesota, Second Quarter 2017
Education/Experience Requirement Median Wage Offer 2Q2017 Change Over the Year (%)
Total All Vacancies $14.39 2.8
No education required $11.95 8.6
High school or GED $13.87 14.1
Vocational training $15.13 0.8
Associate's degree $22.25 12.3
Bachelor's degree $31.08 7.7
Advanced degree $32.85 -8.0
No Work Experience Required $12.12 4.1
Some Work Experience Required $17.91 9.0
Related Work Experience Required $34.35 -1.8
Source: Minnesota Job Vacancy Survey, 2017, second quarter, DEED

Job Quality

For the first time since we have been measuring job vacancies in Minnesota the number of vacancies exceeds the number of unemployed individuals during a quarter. With so many vacancies out there, how can employers successfully compete for workers?

It is clear that employers are responding to the tightening labor market by increasing wages. However, not all employers can increase wages, and even those who do are finding it difficult to fill some jobs. What choices can employers make to increase job attractiveness that do not involve increasing wages?

One way to make vacancies more attractive and reduce turnover of existing positions is to increase hours per week and provide steady, reliable schedules. During second quarter 2017 over 66,000 Minnesotans working part-time wanted to work full-time but could not find full-time employment. While this number is shrinking, down 5.4 percent from one year earlier, it is still a large pool of underutilized workers.

There is some evidence that filling part-time jobs is becoming increasingly difficult, which makes sense given that the number of people who are working part-time but want to be working full-time is shrinking. During second quarter 2017, 44 percent of all openings were for part-time jobs. One year ago only 35 percent were, and two years ago the share was 41 percent. One possible explanation for this increase is that part-time positions are staying open longer this year compared to previous years.

As the labor market continues to tighten, employers will have to get more and more creative in recruiting workers. Hourly wages matter, but job quality also plays an important role. A good, steady job with full-time hours may be more valuable to a prospective employee than one that pays a few dollars more an hour but has unreliable or part-time hours. On the other hand, remaining flexible when an employee has family or health issues can pay off in terms of retention.

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