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Letter from the Editor

While it might not seem particularly noteworthy, Minnesota’s annual unemployment rate finished below 4 percent in both 2015 and 2016, according to Dave Senf’s story in this issue of Trends.

Why is that worth mentioning? Because Minnesota has seen only four periods in the last 70 years when unemployment finished below 4 percent in successive years, with the longest unbroken string occurring from 1995 to 2001.

One thing makes this period different from the others, though. While economic booms drove the three previous sub-4 percent labor markets, slowing labor force growth is the key factor this time.

Baby boomer retirements combined with sluggish growth in the working-age population virtually guarantees weak labor force growth over the next few decades. That, in turn, will mean fewer new jobs in the state because employers won’t be able to find enough workers to expand.

The big takeaway: Get ready for continued tight labor markets in Minnesota. They are likely to be the new normal for years to come.

Alessia Leibert’s cover story in this issue looks at “stackable credentials” and examines, among other things, whether they lead to better employment outcomes. Depending on the field and job opportunities that are available, multiple post-secondary credentials can be a worthwhile investment.

Elsewhere, Ellen Bendewald and Scott Godfrey write about DEED’s first-of-its-kind look at workplace diversity in Minnesota. Chloe Campbell examines the growing home-based care industry, while Carrie Fink writes about the new Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative.

Monte Hanson

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