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A look at local jobs, businesses, and wages
Nov. 21, 2011

WRIGHT, CARVER, McLEOD, MEEKER COUNTIES, MN – A rocky economy has contributed to some interesting economic figures in area communities.

To see charts with local data, click here.

Each quarter, businesses in Minnesota submit data to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), including weekly wages and number of people employed.

Using DEED’s information, the charts in this article were compiled to reflect economic trends in the Herald Journal, Delano Herald Journal, and Enterprise Dispatch coverage area.

Each of the four charts shows annual averages from 2000 to 2010. First quarter numbers from 2011 are also included.

The chart titled “total number of establishments in each city” refers to the number of businesses in each community that are covered by unemployment. It also includes government entities.

According to DEED labor market analyst Dave Senf, the data accounts for about 94 percent of all employment.

“By law, most employers have to pay unemployment tax,” he said. “There are some exceptions, though, such as certain religious groups.”

Self-employed people are typically also excluded.

The second chart, titled “total number of people employed in each city,” counts the people who are working in that community.

“It’s not people who are commuting,” Senf explained.

For example, if a person lives in Waverly but drives to Winsted for work, that person would be counted in Winsted’s total.

Employers submit figures each quarter for anyone who worked part time, full time, or temporary.

“That’s everybody,” Senf said. “It’s if you worked at all that quarter, even just a few hours.”

Many cities have experienced job losses in the past decade.

Cokato, for example, peaked at 2,164 employees in 2003. In 2010, that number was down to 1,221.

Howard Lake also lost a significant number of workers. It’s peak was 1,595 in 2007. In 2010, it was down to 780.

Weekly wages
The “average weekly wages” charts include before-tax wages of those who worked any number of hours, as well.

One chart shows private sector wages, while the other documents wages of government workers.

According to Senf, first quarter 2011 numbers might be very different from its annual numbers, because of seasonal employment.

“You should be cautions about comparing the first quarter of one year to third quarter of another year,” he said. “One quarter can look quite a bit different from another.”

After a quarter ends, there is usually a six-month delay until DEED has the information available to the public.

“Average weekly wages can be helpful in a broad sense, but there can be nuances that affect the data’s presentation. If someone worked one hour during the quarter, they’d have a relatively low wage,” said Cameron Macht, a DEED regional analyst who covers 27 counties in central and southwest Minnesota.

The number of highly-skilled jobs impacts a city’s average.

“Wages are definitely influenced by the industry mix,” Macht said. “Cities with a lot of positions in utilities, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and finance/insurance will most likely have higher wages than those with more positions in retail, accommodations, and food service.”

In Winsted, for example, 456 of its 1,268 employees were involved in manufacturing in 2010.

Also, people who have been at a company many years typically receive higher salaries than starting employees, according to Macht.

Salaries of post office employees, for example, are partially determined by a person’s level of experience.

According to data from DEED, the average weekly wage for a Howard Lake Post Office employee was $1,014 in 2010, whereas in Delano, the average post office worker made $790.

DEED calculates average weekly wage data by taking the total wages of a company, and dividing it by the number of employees. That number is then divided by the number of weeks in the quarter.

Understanding the data
People looking at economic data should be aware of possible inconsistencies, Senf said.

In Winona, for example, a large manufacturer mistakenly listed its address as within city limits. When the error was corrected, it appeared as though the city lost a large number of employees.

Issues can also arise with companies that have multiple locations. Senf gave the example of Walmart, which wanted to report all its Minnesota employees as working in the same town.

“We had to tell them that they needed to put the cities the people were actually employed in,” Senf said.

Also, some small business owners might consider themselves self-employed, and are therefore not counted in the data.

On DEED’s website, details about particular industries are available for many cities. If a city is very small, less data will be shown, in order to avoid singling out a particular business.

In the future
As for the rest of 2011, Senf said he doesn’t expect huge economic jumps in any area.

“It’s a very slow recovery,” he said. “We don’t see anything booming.”

Statewide, job growth is up 1 percent from September 2010 to September 2011.

“When I talk to young people who are unemployed, I tell them to look at the bright side,” Senf said. “This is the worst job market you are ever going to have in your lifetime.”

Locally, the job market is starting to brighten, according to Macht.

From first quarter 2010 to first quarter 2011, Wright and Carver counties each added almost 1,000 jobs.

McLeod County had an increase of 400 jobs, and Meeker County gained 50 jobs, Macht said.

“Our best recommendation for people looking for jobs is to utilize services from the Minnesota Workforce Center,” Macht said.

People can speak to a job counselor, learn about assistance programs and training opportunities, look at job postings, and more.

There are nearly 50 workforce centers statewide, such as in Hutchinson, Litchfield, Monticello, and several Twin Cities locations.

To learn more about the workforce centers, or to access employment data on DEED’s website, click here.

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