Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Great Recession Geography: Minnesota

I'm not a fan of using the state as a unit of analysis. Whenever perusing such data, I find myself disaggregating to the regional or urban level. I think state-to-state comparisons are almost useless given the geographic variability apparent within most states. For example, consider the good news about the lower unemployment rate in Minnesota:

Wells Fargo senior economist Scott Anderson said Minnesota also benefits from a strong agricultural base, which can help balance the economy through tough times.

The state's lowest unemployment rates can be found in a cluster of rural counties in the southwestern part of the state, known for crops such as corn and soybeans, livestock production in hogs and beef cattle, as well as renewable energy in wind power, ethanol production and biodiesel.

"They tend not to have a lot of migration," Anderson said. "You don't live there unless you have a job and have a way of making a living."

While unemployment is as low as 4.3 percent in rural counties, the pattern in the Twin Cities is similar to the state's. Unemployment in Hennepin County has dropped from 8.4 percent to 6.7 percent since June 2009, while in Ramsey County it's down from 8.7 percent to 7.2 percent.

I've added the emphasis. The point about the lack of migration is interesting. It relates to that sticky wicket in Portland (Oregon), too many people for too few jobs. That's not a problem in Southwestern Minnesota.

First leaping to my mind is the region's proximity to the Eastern Dakotas and Northwestern Iowa. This is part of the country's middle that has done very well during the recession. Namely, these "rural" Minnesota counties are in the economic orbit of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I've previously commented on the relative boom going on in that city. That doesn't make the cut in the Minneapolis newspaper article about state unemployment. Instead, we get a strange tale about anemic migration to the rural southwestern part of Minnesota. The analysis stops at the border.

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