Minnesota or Wisconsin: Which economy is doing better?

Two years ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker put up those “Open for Business” signs at the state borders Since then, there’s been an on-again-off-again argument about which state’s economy is doing better.

I made it clear back then that for all the talk about Wisconsin taking Minnesota jobs, the facts showed Minnesota performed better than the Badger State in keeping people employed and adding jobs in the recovery.

The “Open for Business” rivalry re-ignited this week after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton released his budget and tax proposals. Walker took a jab at the plans:

So has Wisconsin out muscled Minnesota the past two years on jobs and the economy? No. Basic economic measures continue to show Minnesota outperforming Wisconsin.

Here are data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis on the key economic markers. Click on the charts for a larger view. (MN is Minnesota, WI is Wisconsin)



Unemployment rate


Personal income


Here’s the Fed’s projection for Wisconsin for this year:

Based on the Minneapolis Fed’s statistical model, employment in the whole state of Wisconsin is expected to grow by a faster-than-average 1.3 percent, while the unemployment rate should drop to 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. Over 4 percent growth in personal income is expected.

Here’s what it says about Minnesota:

Based on the Minneapolis Fed’s statistical model, employment in Minnesota is expected to grow by a solid 2.2 percent, while the unemployment rate is predicted to drop to 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. Growth in personal income is expected to exceed 5 percent.

One more: Here’s a chart on quarterly employment change, starting just before the Great Recession.


The data don’t end the discussion about taxes and spending or the effects of fiscal policy on business decisions.

But if the question is which economy weathered the Great Recession better and has showed greater strength in the recovery, it’s the Minnesotans holding the bragging rights.

  • But if you look a little further into the numbers, you see that non-farm employment, income and other numbers in WI were lower than in MN before Walker took over (and while Pawlenty was preventing excessive damage to the MN economy), and they’ve all grown faster here since Walker took over (and MN at least had a Republican legislature).

    The real comparison will be in two and four years.

  • Joe Danko

    MN had a GOP legislature alright. They left a mess for the DFL to pay off on all the accounting shifts,” loans” from school districts and money stolen from tobacco education funds. The rest of their term they wasted time on useless amendments to the state constitution.