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Distinguishing Features

by Cameron Macht
September 2015

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From health care in Southeast Minnesota to manufacturing in Central Minnesota, each region of the state has a concentration of occupations that distinguishes it from other parts of the state.

Minnesota has a diverse and thriving economy, with employment spread across different industries, occupations and geographies. For planning purposes, the state is divided into six distinct regions, ranging from seven counties in both the Twin Cities and Northeast Minnesota to more than 20 counties in both Northwest and Southwest Minnesota (see Map).

Map of Minnesota's Planning Regions

About 62 percent of the jobs in the state, however, are located in the Twin Cities metro, meaning that many of the unique aspects of the state's economy outside the Interstate 494-694 loop get overshadowed by the outsized influence of the Twin Cities on Minnesota's overall employment statistics (see Figure 1).

Pie chart-Figure 1: Share of Statewide Jobs

Each region has a set of occupations that distinguish it from other parts of the state - occupations that are highly concentrated due to the unique structure of the regional economy. As the primary employment center, the Twin Cities has about 80 percent of the state's computer and mathematical, legal, and business and financial occupations.

Many of the distinguishing occupations in Greater Minnesota are well known. Southeast Minnesota is world renowned for its concentration of health care practitioners and support occupations, as well as life, physical and social sciences professionals. Central Minnesota has strengths in blue collar areas like production; transportation and material moving; installation, maintenance and repair; construction and extraction; and education, training and library jobs.

Southwest and Northwest Minnesota both stand out in the field of farming, along with production and education. Northeast, meanwhile, is notable for community and social services; natural resources-related occupations like forestry; construction and extraction; and installation, maintenance and repair (see Table 1).

Table 1
Top 5 Occupation Groups by Share of Statewide Employment by Region, 2015
Central Minnesota Planning Region Twin Cities Planning Region
SOC Occupational Group Title Estimated Regional Employment Share of Statewide Jobs SOC Occupational Group Title Estimated Regional Employment Share of Statewide Jobs
Total, All Occupations 263,270 9.6% Total, All Occupations 1,691,650 62.0%
Production 31,390 14.4% Computer and Mathematical 75,220 82.2%
Education, Training and Library 21,450 13.7% Legal 14,710 80.3%
Transportation and Material Moving 20,940 12.5% Business and Financial Operations 124,780 78.0%
Installation, Maintenance and Repair 11,520 12.2% Arts, Design, Entertainment and Media 27,000 74.1%
Construction and Extraction 10,980 12.0% Architecture and Engineering 37,380 73.3%
Northeast Minnesota Planning Region Northwest Minnesota Planning Region
SOC Occupational Group Title Estimated Regional Employment Share of Statewide Jobs SOC Occupational Group Title Estimated Regional Employment Share of Statewide Jobs
Total, All Occupations 141,800 5.2% Total, All Occupations 203,060 7.4%
Community and Social Services 4,440 9.0% Farming, Fishing and Forestry 860 24.1%
Farming, Fishing and Forestry 290 8.1% Protective Service 5,260 12.0%
Life, Physical and Social Science 1,870 7.7% Production 24,650 11.3%
Installation, Maintenance and Repair 7,060 7.5% Education, Training and Library 17,270 11.1%
Construction and Extraction 6,360 7.0% Community and Social Services 5,010 10.2%
Southeast Minnesota Planning Region Southwest Minnesota Planning Region
SOC Occupational Group Title Estimated Regional Employment Share of Statewide Jobs SOC Occupational Group Title Estimated Regional Employment Share of Statewide Jobs
Total, All Occupations 253,990 9.3% Total, All Occupations 177,030 6.5%
Health Care Practitioners and Technical 30,490 19.0% Farming, Fishing and Forestry 700 19.6%
Health Care Support 13,660 15.3% Production 27,100 12.4%
Life, Physical and Social Science 3,590 14.7% Education, Training and Library 17,280 11.1%
Production 27,210 12.5% Health Care Support 8,010 9.0%
Computer and Mathematical 9,220 10.1% Transportation and Material Moving 12,930 7.7%
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

The unique aspects of each region's economy become clearer at the occupation level using location quotients. Location quotients (LQs) are ratios that allow the region's distribution of employment to be compared with the state's distribution. If an LQ is equal to 1, then the occupation has the same share of total employment in the region as it does in the state. An LQ greater than 1 indicates an occupation with a greater share of the region's total employment than is the case in the state.

Central Minnesota

As noted above, production occupations are the most strongly concentrated in Central Minnesota, and that is reflected in the more detailed six-digit SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) codes as well. Eight of the region's top 10 LQs are concentrated in production occupations, including ophthalmic lab technicians working in the region's small optical lens manufacturing cluster; lathe and turning machine setters and painting and coating workers who serve the region's huge fabricated metal product, machinery and transportation equipment manufacturing industries; slaughterers and meat packers; and woodworking and sawing machine setters in the region's highly concentrated kitchen cabinet manufacturing sector. The highest LQ was for floor layers, serving the region's booming construction industry (see Table 2).

Table 2
Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Central Minnesota
SOC Occupational Title Estimated Regional Employment Median Hourly Wage Location Quotient
Total, All Occupations 263,270 $16.66 1.0
Floor Layers, Except Carpet, Wood and Hard Tiles 30 $17.58 5.2
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians 580 $13.00 4.7
Lathe and Turning Machine Tool Setters, Metal and Plastic 220 $20.28 4.1
Slaughterers and Meat Packers 2,620 $13.05 3.5
Woodworking Machine Setters, Except Sawing 510 $14.07 3.3
Sawing Machine Setters, Operators and Tenders, Wood 320 $16.41 3.1
Painting, Coating and Decorating Workers 150 $14.61 3.0
Etchers and Engravers 40 $18.41 3.0
Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers 820 $35.96 2.9
Coating, Painting and Spraying Machine Setters 700 $19.52 2.7
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

Northeast Minnesota

Northeast Minnesota's natural resources and amenities provide the backdrop for the region's distinguishing occupations, covering timber industry-related positions like logging equipment operators, foresters and furnace, kiln, oven, drier and kettle operators. Other distinguishing occupations include mining-related trades like explosives workers, mobile heavy equipment mechanics and tower equipment installers; as well as tourism-related positions like tour guides and escorts (see Table 3).

Table 3
Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Northeast Minnesota
SOC Occupational Title Estimated Regional Employment Median Hourly Wage Location Quotient
Total, All Occupations 141,800 $16.58 1.0
Logging Equipment Operators 190 $17.11 19.3
Furnace, Kiln, Oven, Drier and Kettle Operators 330 $21.81 11.2
Tour Guides and Escorts 110 $13.48 6.8
Stonemasons 20 $24.31 6.4
Foresters 150 $28.77 5.9
Explosives Workers and Ordnance Handling Experts 20 $30.76 5.5
Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Except Engines 1,020 $26.11 4.8
Radio, Cellular and Tower Equipment Installers 40 $32.54 4.5
Power Plant Operators 180 $31.05 4.2
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 420 $21.81 3.9
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

Northwest Minnesota

Growing off the region's strong agriculture and related food manufacturing industry, four of the top 10 occupations with the highest location quotients in Northwest Minnesota are food roasting, baking and drying operators; livestock farm workers; agricultural product graders and sorters; and food cooking machine operators. The rest of the region's distinguishing occupations are mental health counselors, gaming workers, cementing and gluing machine operators, bailiffs, upholsterers and high school vocational education teachers (see Table 4).

Table 4
Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Northwest Minnesota
SOC Occupational Title Estimated Regional Employment Median Hourly Wage Location Quotient
Total, All Occupations 203,060 $15.42 1.0
Food Roasting, Baking and Drying Machine Operators 170 $18.92 7.9
Farmworkers, Farm and Ranch Animals 250 $9.49 5.9
Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products 60 $18.86 5.8
Mental Health Counselors 290 $19.65 5.7
Gaming and Sports Book Writers and Runners 320 $10.65 5.2
Cementing and Gluing Machine Operators and Tenders 180 $14.36 4.9
Bailiffs 70 $18.88 4.7
Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders 420 $19.54 4.7
Upholsterers 110 $15.24 4.5
Vocational Education Teachers, Secondary School 120 $49,401 * 4.0
*OES publishes only annual wage data for teachers.
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

Southeast Minnesota

Led by the Mayo Clinic in the Rochester metropolitan area, Southeast Minnesota is the only region with a health care-related occupation in its top 10. In fact, eight of its top 10 occupations are in that field, ranging from health care support workers to anesthesiologists. Many of these health care and life science occupations require postsecondary education and, in turn, earn healthy wages. The other two occupations were in production: food cooking machine operators and model makers (see Table 5).

Table 5
Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Southeast Minnesota
SOC Occupational Title Estimated Regional Employment Median Hourly Wage Location Quotient
Total, All Occupations 253,990 $17.74 1.0
Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders 880 $16.86 7.8
Health Care Support Workers, All Other 2,180 $18.89 7.1
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists 2,150 $30.98 6.6
Life Scientists, All Other 440 $29.44 6.4
Biological Technicians 600 $35.15 6.1
Medical Equipment Preparers 710 $17.62 6.1
Nuclear Medicine Technologists 150 $41.68 6.0
Model Makers, Metal and Plastic 130 $16.13 5.6
Anesthesiologists 530 $85.23 5.5
Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other 900 $31.00 5.5
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

Southwest Minnesota

Six of the top 10 occupations in Southwest Minnesota are related to agriculture in some way. They include agricultural equipment operators who plant and harvest crops, meat cutters and packers who process the region's livestock, agricultural inspectors who ensure quality food is being produced, purchasing agents who get products to and from markets, and wind turbine service technicians who help harvest the region's newest crop: wind power. The region's strong manufacturing sector also relies on the high concentration of coil winders, conveyor operators, and structural iron and steel workers. Interestingly, Southwest is the only region where the occupation with the highest location quotient is also the largest occupation in the region (see Table 6).

Table 6
Top 10 Highly Concentrated Occupations in Southwest Minnesota
SOC Occupational Title Estimated Regional Employment Median Hourly Wage Location Quotient
Total, All Occupations 177,030 $15.48 1.0
Slaughterers and Meat Packers 6,010 $13.66 11.9
Coil Winders, Tapers and Finishers 160 $17.28 5.6
Agricultural Equipment Operators 240 $14.36 5.5
Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers 720 $11.44 5.3
Purchasing Agents and Buyers, Farm Products 100 $30.64 5.1
Agricultural Inspectors 90 $21.05 4.8
Physics Teachers, Postsecondary 50 $54,813* 4.5
Conveyor Operators and Tenders 260 $14.79 4.4
Structural Iron and Steel Workers 200 $18.61 4.3
Wind Turbine Service Technicians 60 $23.28 4.2
*OES publishes only annual wage data for teachers.
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

While some of these occupations provide a relatively small number of jobs, they still can have a large impact on the region's economy. These distinguishing occupations have grown and flourished to serve each region's unique industry mix, while also setting each region apart.

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