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Letter from the Editor

The Search for Workers

While this issue of Trends touches on many topics, there’s one recurring theme that is hard to miss: The labor market across Minnesota is tight and getting tighter.

Indeed, the search for workers will be one of the big economic stories in Minnesota and the rest of the country over the next 15 years. With baby boomers leaving the workforce, companies will have to scramble to find replacements. In some industries, they’re already scrambling.

One of the keys to tackling this problem will be tapping groups with lower participation rates in the workforce. For a variety of reasons, communities of color, people with disabilities and young adults all have much higher unemployment rates and lower workforce participation than the overall population in Minnesota. Removing some of the barriers faced by these groups and getting them into the workforce could go a long way toward easing the labor crunch.

The Central Minnesota region offers an illustration. If minority groups and people with disabilities had the same participation and unemployment rates as the white population, the region would have an additional 5,000 available workers. Not enough to solve the problem but certainly a step in the right direction.

Minnesota has an enviable economy, with low unemployment, high labor force participation, thriving companies and a strong business climate. By these and other standards, we’re among the best in the country. If we want to maintain that position, though, we must create more opportunities for groups that have been left behind by the economy in the past.

Monte Hanson

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