Released every two years, the long-term employment projections provide an estimate of how industries and occupations are expected to grow or shrink over a ten-year period. The most recent projection period was 2020-2030. The projected employment growth rate for 2020-2030 (+5.5%) was more than three times the growth rate projected for the period 2018-2028 (+ 1.6%). However, what appears at first glance to be much stronger growth requires another look.

Crucial additional context is that in 2018 there were approximately 11,900 more jobs in northeast Minnesota than two years later. A job loss of 7.4% is a deficit that even a robust growth rate of 5.5%, as projected for the region in 2020-2030, cannot overcome. The previous set of projections projected that there would be about 163,000 jobs in 2028. By comparison, the 2030 projection is 156,600, or about 6,300 less, despite the two extra years. Compared to other regions, Northeast Minnesota had the second-fastest projected growth rate for 2020-2030, but also experienced the largest relative decline in employment from 2019-2020.

Some of the greatest growth was recorded in the industrial sectors most affected by the pandemic, indicating an expected recovery in these areas. This includes arts, entertainment and recreation (+30%), accommodation and food services (+20.5%), other services (+10.5%) and health care and social assistance (+9.2%). One of the bright spots was professional and technical services, which did not lose many jobs in 2020, but still posted above-average employment growth (+7.2% ).

On the other hand, many of the sectors that held up relatively well during the initial period of the pandemic were also more likely to see the slowest growth and, in some cases, an expected decline in employment. Examples are utilities (-15.3%), mining (-6.4%), retail (-5.4%) and manufacturing (-2%). Ongoing trends such as e-commerce and automation are also likely contributing to the decline of some of these sectors. Across the economy, a drop in the number of people looking for work has helped dampen some of the earlier recovery forecasts. Northeastern Minnesota in April 2022 had 6,435 fewer people in the labor force than in February 2020, and only 1,114 had joined or re-entered the previous year. If this pace were to continue, it would limit the ability of employers to find and hire workers, thus capping any future job growth.

Carson Gorecki lives in Duluth and is a regional labor market analyst with the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Economic Development. It strives to make labor market information more accessible to all Minnesotans. He can be attached to carson. gorecki@state.mn.us.