Still a long road back for manufacturing, construction

In a couple weeks, we’ll mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the Great Recession. No one will be celebrating. Even in Minnesota, where the pain hasn’t been as bad as in some parts of the country, we’re still struggling for traction in two key industries: manufacturing and construction.

Construction has really taken it on the chin the past few years. And though there are positive signs that things are starting to turn around, the climb back is enormous.

Here’s a chart showing construction jobs since 2000 (click for a larger view).


In December 2007, Minnesota counted 116,000 construction jobs. As of last month, the state had just under 95,000 construction jobs — an 18 percent loss. That’s better than a couple years ago when the job count was down more than 25 percent.

The pattern is similar for manufacturing. The industry boasted nearly 340,000 jobs at the start of the recession — about 13 percent of the state’s workforce, generating 15 percent of all wages paid. Two years later, manufacturing had fallen below 300,000 jobs and 11 percent of the workforce.

The job count is up to nearly 302,000 as of last month, but it remains a stop-and-start recovery. Here’s the chart: (click for a larger view):


Minnesota has lost more than 20 percent of its manufacturing employment since January 2000, roughly 94, 000 jobs. Some manufacturing sectors have been growing, thanks to the region’s medical device industry. But whatever computer manufacturing business the state had at the start of the 2000s is largely gone now.

Not trying to be depressing here. Economies recover and this one will, too. But what will our recovered economy look like?

Manufacturing seems the most concerning. It remains a vital component of the state’s economy. As of 2009, Minnesota was among states where manufacturing still made up more than 10 percent of total payroll.


Source: Joint Economic Committee

Will we be able to say the same in five years?

— Paul Tosto