Minn. worker shortage squeezing employers gets tighter

Minnesota's labor shortage continues to deepen.

Employers reported a record 142,000 job vacancies to state economic officials during the spring.

And that's just the start of the records set in the data the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) reported Friday. The day before, the Department reported the state's jobless rate fell to 2.9 percent in August, not much higher than the all-time low of 2.5 percent. Since the state's Job Vacancy Survey started counting back in 2001, this was the first to find greater Minnesota had more job openings than people looking for work.

For every 10 postings outside the Twin Cities, there are only seven people job-hunting. In the Twin Cities the number is five. For the state as a whole the number is six, a record low. The job vacancy rate is at a record high. There were 5.2 job openings for every 100 filled positions. Minnesota added 32,000 jobs from May through July, but the state's employment growth has typically lagged the U.S. growth rate since 2014. DEED labor market analyst Oriane Casale said the lack of workers is likely crimping overall job growth in the state. "We may have seen over the last couple years even stronger growth if the workers were there," she said.

The worker shortage is causing DEED to reduce its forecasts of future employment in the state, Casale said. The state's health care and social assistance industry accounted for the greatest number of vacancies, with 26,931 openings.

That's more than triple the number for the spring survey in 2010, following the great recession.

There's been steady growth in demand for personal care assistants, which are low-wage jobs and hard to fill, but economically important, Casale said.

"Without people working as personal care assistants, disabled people and others who want to live in their community, want to work in their community, but need help to do that just don't have that option," Casale said. "It's absolutely critical both to folks that need this help but also to the economy if we want everyone who can work to work."

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