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New data shows that Minnesotans cannot be complacent about their economy

Minnesotans are generally proud of their states economy. And there has been and is much to be proud of. But this should not lead to complacency. Prosperity isn’t a given and we need to be watchful for signs that our economy isn’t as healthy as it could be.

States or metropolitan areas

On Wednesday the Bureau of Labour Statistics released its estimates of Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment. These are particularly useful in the case of Minnesota. Comparing the state of our economy to that of South Dakota might seem like comparing apples with oranges. Metropolitan areas, however, can offer more like-for-like comparisons.

Minnesota is lagging its neighbors

So what did the BLS data show?

Table 1 shows the 29 metropolitan areas in Minnesota and the neighboring four states ranked by the percentage point declines in their unemployment rates from May 2016 to May 2017. Wisconsin (yellow areas) has done best, accounting for the top twelve best performing  metropolitan areas. Contrast this with Minnesota (dark red). Just one area – Duluth – has seen its unemployment rate fall from May 2016 to May 2017. It rose in all the others. Of the six areas which saw their unemployment rates increase over the period, four were in Minnesota.

Table 1
metros

Source: Center of the American Experiment and the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Doesn’t this just reflect that Minnesota has higher than average employment to start with?

Table 2 shows the 29 metropolitan areas ranked by their unemployment rates of May 2016. Every Minnesotan area except Duluth had unemployment below the average.

Table 2

metros2

Source: Center of the American Experiment and the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Table 3 shows the 29 metropolitan areas ranked by their unemployment rates of May 2017. Now, every Minnesotan area has unemployment above the average. So while it is true that Minnesotan employment started from a higher base in May 2016, not only have areas in Wisconsin caught up, they have overtaken.

Table 3

metros3

Source: Center of the American Experiment and the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Minnesotans cannot take their economy for granted 

This is just one release from one data set. It would be ridiculous to infer impending economic doom from these numbers.

But prosperity cannot be assumed, it must be nurtured. To do this, we have to keep a close eye on all the indicators of economic health.

John Phelan is an economist at Center of the American Experiment.

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