So Close, Yet So Far Away

Northwest Minnesota added nearly 10,000 jobs through the third quarter of 2021 in comparison to the third quarter of 2020, bringing it back to 98.6% of pre-pandemic employment levels. That was the strongest over-the-year job recovery of the six planning regions in the state, and as of the third quarter of 2021, Northwest is the closest to regaining all the jobs lost at the outset of the pandemic. However, the region is still about 3,300 jobs below its employment level from the third quarter of 2019, when it peaked with 227,590 jobs (see Figure 1).

Quarter 3 2021 Employment Levels as a Percent of Quarter 3 2019 Employment Levels

Fourteen of the 20 main industry sectors in Northwest Minnesota added jobs over the past year, led by huge gains in Construction (+2,899 jobs), Accommodation & Food Services (+2,774 jobs), Manufacturing (+1,300 jobs), Educational Services (+962 jobs), and Wholesale Trade (+669 jobs). In contrast, the biggest loss was suffered in Public Administration, which cut nearly 750 jobs over the year. The other five declining industries all lost less than 100 jobs over the year.

The fastest growth in the region was seen in Construction, which built up payrolls by more than 21% over the year. With more than 16,400 jobs, that is the largest number of Construction jobs ever held in Northwest Minnesota and was up by more than 3,100 jobs compared to the third quarter of 2019.  Three other industries – Wholesale Trade (104.3%), Administrative Support & Waste Management Services (102.9%), and Real Estate, Rental & Leasing (101.3%) have also set new employment peaks in the region despite coming out of the pandemic recession.

The region also experienced rapid recovery in the industries that were hardest hit at the outset of the pandemic – Arts, Entertainment & Recreation (+17.6%), Accommodation & Food Services (+13.2%), and Other Services all jumped 9.0% or more over the past year. Demand for temporary workers also returned in the region, with Administrative Support & Waste Management Services, industry home to temporary staffing agencies,  adding more than 400 jobs since 2020, a 9.9% increase (see Table 1).

Table 1. Northwest Minnesota Industry Employment Statistics

Qtr. 3 2021 Q3 2020-Q3 2021 Percent of 3rd Qtr. 2019 Emp.
NAICS Code NAICS Industry Title Number of Firms Number of Jobs Number Percent
0 Total, All Industries 17,529 224,302 +9,818 +4.6% 98.6%
11 Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting 899 5,484 -90 -1.6% 97.9%
21 Mining 43 268 -14 -5.0% 91.8%
23 Construction 2,308 16,431 +2,899 +21.4% 123.6%
31 Manufacturing 812 29,418 +1,300 +4.6% 98.7%
22 Utilities 67 1,254 -14 -1.1% 96.2%
42 Wholesale Trade 610 11,669 +669 +6.1% 104.3%
44 Retail Trade 2,306 27,624 +109 +0.4% 97.8%
48 Transportation & Warehousing 876 5,847 +26 +0.4% 99.0%
51 Information 269 2,573 +106 +4.3% 98.4%
52 Finance & Insurance 850 5,866 -41 -0.7% 98.4%
53 Real Estate & Rental & Leasing 460 1,563 +27 +1.8% 101.3%
54 Professional, Scientific & Technical Svcs. 850 4,655 +53 +1.2% 98.4%
55 Management of Companies 56 585 -85 -12.7% 83.5%
56 Admin. Support & Waste Mgmt. Svcs. 690 4,547 +410 +9.9% 102.9%
61 Educational Services 399 17,976 +962 +5.7% 95.4%
62 Health Care & Social Assistance 1,804 38,455 +315 +0.8% 98.2%
71 Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation 401 4,039 +604 +17.6% 94.4%
72 Accommodation & Food Services 1,544 23,720 +2,774 +13.2% 92.3%
81 Other Services 1,562 6,723 +553 +9.0% 97.4%
92 Public Administration 723 15,598 -746 -4.6% 91.4%
Source: DEED Quarterly Census of Employment & Wages

Rising demand has created difficulties for employers to find new workers. Every industry was trying to hire – with more than 17,750 openings detailed in the 2021 Job Vacancy Survey. At that level, Northwest Minnesota reported the highest number of vacancies on record – up more than 3,500 from the previous high. This included nearly 4,000 vacancies in Retail Trade, almost 3,900 openings in Accommodation & Food Services, more than 3,000 postings in Health Care & Social Assistance, and about 2,000 job vacancies in Manufacturing.

For More Information

Contact Cameron Macht at 320-441-6596.

February 14, 2022 | Cameron Macht

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