Data from metropolitan areas shows Minnesota slipping relative to its neighbors

Wednesday saw the release by the Bureau of Labour Statistics of its estimates of Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment.

As I’ve written previously, these can be a useful way to compare economic performance. Minnesota’s economy differs from those of near neighbors such as Iowa and North Dakota. This restricts the usefulness of comparisons of state level data. This variation is a little less notable between urban areas.

Minnesota and 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 June 2016 to June 2017. On this measure, Wisconsin (white areas) has done best. Of the fifteen MSAs which have seen their unemployment rate fall fastest, twelve were in the Badger State. By contrast, four of Minnesota’s five MSAs were among the bottom performing seven.

Table 1

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

Isn’t this because unemployment was higher in these areas of Wisconsin to start with so had further to fall?

There is some truth in that. Table 2 shows the 29 metropolitan areas ranked by their unemployment rates of June 2017. In June 2016, just two Minnesotan MSAs – St Cloud and Duluth – had unemployment rates above the average for the five states MSAs. In June 2017, that was up to four MSAs, Mankato and the Twin Cities having joined St Cloud and Duluth.

Table 2

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

With the previously mentioned caveats about state level data, let’s finish with a quick look at our state and its four neighbors in Table 3.

In June 2016, Minnesota had the second highest unemployment rate of the five states with Wisconsin’s higher. In June 2017, our state had fallen to last place as the jobs boom across the St Croix continued. In June 2016, Wisconsin’s unemployment was 4.5% and Minnesota’s was 4.0%. Last month, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate of 3.4% was below Minnesota’s ofs 3.7%.

Table 3

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.