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Greater Minnesota economy remains worrisome

Despite some encouraging signs earlier in the 2000s, the latest measures of Greater Minnesota’s economic health appear worrisome.  For a few years in the last decade, the trend lines and outlook for farm income and other measures of the rural economy looked to be brighter than for the economies in urban and suburban areas, given growth in the ethanol industry, higher commodity prices and record global demand for agriculture products.  And Greater Minnesota largely escaped the real estate collapse and the foreclosure crisis.

However, the fact remains that as of 2010, unemployment and job scarcity are significantly higher in Greater Minnesota than in metro Minnesota.  As of late 2010, the ratio of job seekers to full-time job openings in Greater Minnesota was 10-to-1, while in the seven-county Twin Cities metro region it was 7-to-1.

Even before the recession hit, Minnesota’s non-metro poverty rate was almost two percentage points higher than the metro’s (10.5% vs. 8.7%), unemployment was a full point higher (5.3% vs. 4.3%), and the college attainment rate was just more than half the metro rate (16.9% vs. 31.6%).

And while agriculture – one of Greater Minnesota’s cornerstones – appeared immune early in the recent recession, it took a serious hit in 2009.  A University of Minnesota farm income report shows a gradual rise in median net farm income through the last decade, with a spike upward in 2007 and 2008, followed by a free fall from about $90,000 in 2008 to $33,000 in 2009

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