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Letter From the Editor

March 2016

Building Workforce Participation

Much has been written about the tightening labor market and what that might mean for the economy in coming years. Sluggish growth in the workforce could have a dampening effect on the economy in Minnesota and across the country.

The aging population, of course, is a big part of that trend, with people 65 and over accounting for nearly 80 percent of the increase in “workforce nonparticipation” in Minnesota since 2007, according to a story in this issue by Steve Hine and Cameron Macht.

But other factors are at play, too. One of the surprising findings of Hine and Macht’s analysis was the high number of working-age nonparticipants (people ages 16 to 64) with college experience. Roughly half of the state’s working-age people who aren’t in the workforce have a post-secondary degree or at least some college.

Why people in that group account for such a high percentage of nonparticipants is hard to explain, although family and child care obligations might be one factor keeping them out of the workforce. Finding ways to bring them back might be a part of the solution to future worker shortages.

Welcoming people with disabilities into the workforce would also help address our labor challenges. The unemployment rate for working-age people with disabilities in Minnesota is more than double the unemployment rate for people without disabilities, according to a story by Mohamed Mourssi-Alfash that begins on Page 18.

The real key to building workforce participation, though, is the state’s growing minority populations, including immigrants. Breaking down work barriers faced by these and other groups could go a long way toward addressing a tighter labor market in years to come.

Monte Hanson,

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