State saw no decline in median income and poverty rate

Published 9:49 am Friday, September 21, 2012

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s economy started to stabilize last year following several years of recessionary declines, according to new survey data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The annual American Community Survey showed no decline in Minnesota’s median household income in 2011, and a poverty rate that remained flat at about 12 percent. That was after consecutive declines in those measures every year starting in 2007.

Median income last year was about $57,000 — the same as in 2010.

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“After several years of negative trends in income, in poverty, in labor force participation, we’ve seen a leveling off of a lot of these indicators, so that’s good news,” State Demographer Susan Brower said.

Brower said Minnesota showed signs of stabilization while many other states’ economic conditions worsened.

“Minnesota appears to be in the top tier of states in a lot of these indicators,” Brower said. “Many states have seen continued declines in income and increases in the poverty rate, and Minnesota has leveled off.”

Minnesota’s unemployment rate also improved, and the percentage of people in the state workforce held steady. During the recession, some workers stopped looking for jobs.

The state’s unemployment rate has recovered much faster than in most states, and its labor force participation rate has been among the highest in the country.

Despite that, Steve Hines, the state’s chief labor market analyst, said the labor force participation rate of around 70 percent in 2011 compares to a 75 percent rate from about a decade ago. Some of that decline can be attributed to an aging population and might be permanent, Hine said.

Hine said a full economic recovery is still a ways off.

“It continues to be a fragile recovery,” he said. “In that environment, it wouldn’t take much to tilt the balance in the other direction, and there’s certainly looming threats of that kind of possibility.”