Manufacturing Jobs To Grow Fastest In Outstate MN

Manufacturing Jobs To Grow Fastest In Outstate MN

A new report highlights the importance of manufacturing to Greater Minnesota, which is expected to experience the fastest growth in manufacturing jobs this decade.

Manufacturing is a crucial component of Minnesota’s economy—and jobs in the sector, which pay more on average than occupations from most industries, are expected to grow most rapidly in Greater Minnesota.

That’s the crux of a new report from the Center for Rural Policy and Development, a St. Peter-based nonprofit policy research organization, which examined employment data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), as well as federal agencies.

The report, which was released just ahead of Labor Day, highlights the importance of manufacturing to Minnesota’s economy. Citing DEED data, the report estimates that between 2010 and 2020, manufacturing jobs are expected to increase by 9 percent in Greater Minnesota and by 1 percent in the Twin Cities.

Manufacturing jobs offer average wages that are roughly 25 percent higher than those of other industries, the report said. In Northeast Minnesota, manufacturing jobs pay nearly 40 percent more than other occupations.

Manufacturing accounts for nearly one in nine jobs in the state, according to DEED. The agency estimated in 2010 that 12,000 additional skilled manufacturing workers are needed to fill jobs that will be added by 2020. Citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Center for Rural Policy and Development said that every $1 spent in manufacturing creates an additional $1.35 in the local economy, more than any other major industry.

“Manufacturing is a key driver of Greater Minnesota’s economy,” Brad Finstad, executive director of the Center for Rural Policy and Development, said in a statement. “Not only are the wages higher than other industries, but there is a tremendous ripple effect from manufacturing. Manufacturing induces more jobs than any other industry.”

Looking ahead, however, the Center said that Greater Minnesota manufacturers face competition for skilled workers from the Twin Cities, as well as Sioux Falls, Fargo, and the oil fields in western North Dakota. As Baby Boomers retire, that competition will continue to increase, and “training tomorrow's workers will be critical to making sure Minnesota has the skilled workers manufacturers need,” Finstad said.

“It’s especially important to continue the efforts of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses and other organizations working with manufacturers to identify their needs and develop specialized programs,” he added.

Several Minnesota manufacturers have recently announced expansion plans. For example, Waconia Manufacturing, Inc., recently broke ground on a 67,000-square-foot facility where it plans to add 15 employees.

And Sauk Rapids-based WFSI, Inc., will use a $200,000 loan to expand its facility, add 32 new employees, and increase its welding and manufacturing capacity.

In fact, DEED recently said that 39 business expansions were announced during the past few months and will together add 1,500 Minnesota jobs. Of them, 19 expansion projects are in the manufacturing industry.

But state data shows that Minnesota’s manufacturing industry has been sluggish during the past year. Last month, Minnesota added 4,300 jobs, but most of them were in the government sector. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the manufacturing industry actually shed 1,400 jobs during the month—and it’s down 2,500 jobs year-over-year, representing the only sector that has lost jobs over the year in Minnesota, according to DEED.

Oriane Casale, assistant director of labor market information at DEED, told reporters earlier this month that “manufacturing continues to be the glaring weak spot in terms of growth over the past year.”

The industry faces other challenges as well. One recent report suggested that, despite manufacturing growth, fewer women are gaining employment in the male-dominated industry.

Between February 2010 and April 2013, manufacturing employment nationwide grew by 530,000 jobs, according to a report released in May by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. However, during that time, women lost 28,000 jobs while men gained 558,000. Women currently make up 27 percent of the manufacturing work force, which is down from a peak in 1990, when women comprised about 32 percent of the industry’s work force.

Some Minnesota employers, including those in the manufacturing industry, have said they are struggling to fill vacant positions, but a DEED study indicates that the hiring difficulties cannot be attributed solely to a lack of skilled workers. Rather, unattractive characteristics of the employer or job itself, such as the wages offered, work hours, and an undesirable location, factor into hiring challenges.

And while growth in Greater Minnesota manufacturing jobs is expected to outpace growth in the Twin Cities, metro-area manufacturing positions pay a significantly higher average salary than those in outstate Minnesota.

For more information on manufacturing wages throughout Minnesota and how they compare to other industries, see the infographic below.