Minnesota employers reported nearly 137,000 job vacancies in the fourth quarter of 2018. This marks a 20 percent increase in unfilled positions from the same time in 2017, according to the biannual Job Vacancy Survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
Simultaneously, the job vacancy rate increased from 4.2 percent—4.2 openings for every 100 jobs—in 2017 to 4.9 in 2018.
“Minnesota continues to experience strong hiring demand statewide,” says DEED commissioner Steve Grove of the findings of the survey, which is produced every second and fourth quarter.
By region, the majority of the job vacancies were found in the Twin Cities metro area, with 76,500 open positions, or 55.9 percent of the total. Greater Minnesota had 60,400 vacancies.
Across industries, health care and social assistance had the most vacancies, taking an 18 percent share of the total, followed by retail trade (13 percent), accommodation and food service (12 percent), and manufacturing (8 percent).
The retail industry claims the most unfilled specific job, as the fourth quarter of 2018 saw 7,400 unfilled positions for retail salespersons. Personal care aide positions were next, with 6,800 vacancies, followed by the combined pool of food preparation and serving workers positions, for which there were 6,700 openings.
Smaller companies fared worse than big companies with job vacancy rates—7.1 percent for companies of 10 to 49 employees, compared to 2.9 percent for companies with 250 or more employees.
Overall, the increase in job vacancies for the fourth quarter of 2018 speaks to the long-standing issue Minnesota has been facing of a shrinking workforce.
The labor shortage is a nationwide problem, due largely to the fact that baby boomers continue to age out of the workforce, but it’s been particularly prominent in Minnesota economic and political conversations with new governor Tim Walz touting it as a key part of his agenda.
He told TCB in January that one partial solution is for Minnesota to strike strategic partnerships to help improve worker housing and training offerings.
Grove notes DEED has programs that address those areas, and says the “tight labor market highlights the importance of investing” in such programs.
However, data collected since the fourth quarter of 2018 indicates there may be other factors to consider when looking at the future of the workforce and job vacancies.
For example, the March jobs report from DEED stated that unemployment increased over the month even as 1,300 jobs were added. Grove says this is because more people are looking for work, but they aren’t looking for just any job—they want better opportunities.
A MinnPost report earlier this year revealed economists were anticipating this trend, and believed a key driver was unemployed job seekers’ desire for higher wages.
As it stands now, the Job Vacancy Survey found that the median wage offer for available positions is $15.01 hour (depending on experience and education requirements).
Other findings of the Job Vacancy Survey are: