Signs Point to National Recession. What Might That Mean for Minnesota?
(Photo courtesy of Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Signs Point to National Recession. What Might That Mean for Minnesota?

In general, Minnesota is poised to weather recessions better than some states, experts say.

The U.S. economy might be on its way toward a downturn.

It’s somewhat inevitable. The economy tends to have ups and downs, and while we’re in the midst of the longest economic expansion ever, these things usually don’t last forever.

Predicting if and when the economy will slow down is difficult, but economists are seeing signs in the bond market that it could happen soon (you might have heard of the inverted yield curve — that’s what they’re talking about).

If the economy does take a downward turn, it’s likely that’ll hit some places harder than others. What would a recession mean for Minnesota?

A diverse economy

Generally speaking, Minnesota is poised to weather recessions better than some states, experts say, because its economy isn’t overly reliant on any one industry. In fact, Minnesota’s economy closely mirrors the U.S. economy as a whole, with output spread throughout sectors, though there’s some concentration in industries like finance, insurance, real estate rental and leasing, and business and professional services.

Share of GDP by industry, 2018

Created with Highcharts 7.2.0Percent of GDP

U.S.MinnesotaAgriculture, forestry, fishing and h…

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas…

UtilitiesConstructionManufacturingWholesale tradeRetail tradeTransportation and warehousingInformationFinance, insurance, real estate, re…

Professional and business servicesEducational services, health care, …

Arts, entertainment, recreation, a…

Other services (except governme…

Government and government ent…


U.S.: 20.7% Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

“When you have a diverse economic base like we have, it gives you some resilience during downturns,” said Laura Kalambokidis, Minnesota state economist. “If any single industry is contracting, another industry might be able to pick up those workers.”

That means Minnesota’s less susceptible to busts, but generally also less apt to see economic booms: the state’s economy often grows at a relatively slow clip.

There’s an upside to Minnesota’s comparatively steady economy: During the recession in 2008, Minnesota’s unemployment rate never rose as high as the national rate, and it recovered to pre-recession levels before national unemployment did.

Quarterly unemployment, Minnesota and U.S.

Data are seasonally adjusted.
Created with Highcharts 7.2.0Unemployment rate


2015-07-01: 5.1%
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Weak spots

If a recession does come to the U.S., there’s no indication it’ll be as bad as the one in 2008, said Mark Wright, senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

But no two recessions are the same. And the effects of any future recession, in both the U.S. and Minnesota, would depend on what triggers it: a slump in agriculture hurts places that are dependent on agriculture. A manufacturing bust hurts places that depend on making and exporting goods.

“Look at states where they have a concentration of activity or employment, those are areas where they might be vulnerable if that is the industry that’s contracting during a recession,” Kalambokidis said.

The economy in Louisiana, for example, could be more susceptible to a recession that hits manufacturing, which makes up 20 percent of that state’s GDP, compared to 11 percent of national GDP.  In Nevada, a recession that strongly affects arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services could hurt. That industry makes up more than 16 percent of Nevada’s GDP compared to 4 percent of national GDP. In Alaska, 16 percent of GDP — compared to less than 2 percent of U.S. GDP — comes from mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.

But just because Minnesota’s economy is broad-based doesn’t mean the state is immune to economic downturns, Kalambokidis said.

And if, as some economists predict, the next recession comes from external factors, like sl0w growth in other countries and tariffs, Minnesota could take a hit.

Compared to the U.S. as a whole, Minnesota is slightly overrepresented in the manufacturing and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries — which rely heavily on exports.

Other signs

An inversion in the yield curve like we’re currently seeing suggests investors are nervous about a future recession.

While such inversions aren’t a surefire sign of a downturn, they’re a pretty good predictor. But it sometimes takes a while for recessions to happen after a yield curve inversion.

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Wright said he’ll be watching the yield curve for signs of further inversion. Other concerns would include a slowdown in consumer spending — a sign people are worried about the future — and slowdowns in hiring.

Still, these things are tough to predict — especially because much of the data lag a few months, making it difficult to tell what’s going on in the economy right now.

“It’s usually the case that the data’s a little murky,” Wright said.