Health care jobs saved Minnesota

Minnesota this year recovered the number of jobs it lost in the Great Recession. A deeper look at the data, though, paint an intriguing picture of winners and losers — and how our economy continues to shift.

Bottom line: Health care jobs saved our bacon in the recession. The industry continued to grow jobs during the worst economic conditions in decades.

Nearly 53,000 jobs were added in the Education and Health Services sector from December 2007, the official start of the Great Recession, through February. That almost exactly makes up for the losses Minnesota suffered in manufacturing and construction.

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Health jobs drove nearly all the gains in the the Education and Health Services category.

It makes sense. We’re an aging population here and health care is increasingly important to our lives.

The problem, though, is that, generally, those jobs don’t pay nearly as well as the jobs in, say, manufacturing and construction.

Here’s a look at average weekly wages in Minnesota for those sectors in 2007 and 2011 (complete 2012 data isn’t available yet).

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It may still be too soon to conclude what we’re seeing now are permanent shifts. But there’s no doubt manufacturing and construction provide a shrinking share of Minnesota’s non-farm employment, from 16.4 percent of total non-farm jobs in December 2007 to 14.5 percent now.

Those are long term trends that accelerated in the Great Recession.

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The signs for health care growth job growth are positive. Without those jobs, Minnesota would not have the economic bragging rights it holds over Wisconsin and other states.

Still, right now it looks like in our future economy we’re replacing higher paying jobs for ones with lower wages. The demand for health care workers is jumping. Will their wages follow suit?

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