Editorial Roundup: Minnesota economy doing well
Published 8:50 pm Friday, July 22, 2022
The big drivers of Minnesota’s economy in June surpassed pre-pandemic levels of employment in a sign that the state is well on its way to recovery and prosperity.
While political leadership often takes more credit than is due for these kinds of developments, the strategy Minnesota leaders took through the pandemic and economic strife wasn’t perfect, but it was good.
We can start with the initial bipartisan reaction to the pandemic, with Democrats and Republicans agreeing the pandemic posed a catastrophic threat to public health and business prosperity. We needed information and research on the COVID-19 virus, and we got it with Gov. Tim Walz and others drawing together the state’s health and medical brain trust from the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and the private and nonprofit health care providers.
Minnesotans were very well-informed of the virus spread and precautions to take on a daily basis for two years. It has only been recently the state pulled back from daily reporting on virus cases to weekly updates.
Walz and Republicans put together bipartisan plans for priorities for federal pandemic dollars. The two sides came to a historic budget agreement last year. Both agreed to business relief programs that supplemented federal programs and were a lifeline to a lot of small businesses.
Manufacturing, construction and professional and business service fields have now surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels. Leisure, hospitality, retail and education and health services still have ground to make up in terms of getting back to pre-pandemic employment levels.
That’s not surprising. Businesses that still rely on person-to-person contact still suffer from a consumer caution in everything from going out to eat to taking vacations. Education and health services fall into the same category. Those businesses require in-person contact to thrive.
But all industries continue to suffer from the shortage of workers. Minnesota’s overall private sector jobs are still 57,000 jobs behind pre-pandemic levels. If government jobs are included, the state is 82,000 jobs behind.
Minnesota’s labor market is extremely tight with only a 2% unemployment rate, second lowest in the nation. That rate may have been influenced by an estimated 60,000 Minnesotans retiring during the pandemic.
At the same time, Minnesota has two open jobs for every person seeking one. Still Minnesota is growing jobs at a rate 1.6% per year, higher than the national rate of 1.5% per year.
So the state is on a solid track to recovery. And the good news is that a tighter labor market is pushing wages higher. Business have had to pay more to lure back those workers who left during the pandemic.
And while two Minnesota shutdowns during the pandemic certainly hurt, they saved lives. The state’s precautions showed that our COVID death rates were far below those of surrounding states that had loose or almost no restrictions.
Political leadership doesn’t always deserve a lot of credit for economic prosperity, but in the case of mitigating economic threats from the pandemic, Walz and the sometimes cooperating Republicans did well.
— Mankato Free Press, July 22