How Race Impacts the Workforce Shortage

The country is facing a labor shortage as the Baby Boomer population retires and the Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area (Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties) is no different. To provide insight on strategies to address this shortage, Greater Mankato Growth conducted a national comparison of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) and analyzed workforce engagement. The unique labor force characteristics of our MSA can show areas for improvement and opportunity for enhanced engagement with our diverse populations.

The Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area (Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties) have very unique attributes in our workforce.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, we rank 364 out of 381 MSAs in the country in terms of percent of workers 16-64 year who worked full-time, year round.

This no doubt is impacted by the 26,000 college students we have within our MSA. Nationally, we have the 13el youngest workforce (33.6 median age of worker) out of 381 Metropolitan areas…that’s in the top 3%.

We rank 370el out of 381 for hours worked in a week (35.7 hours).

Mankato-North Mankato has the 3rd highest labor force participation rate in the country (87.95%). We only trail Fargo (88.26%) and St. Cloud (88.02%).

The Mankato-North Mankato MSA has really high participation rates compared to the nation and most other MSAs, and across almost all of the different race and origin groups.

  • Rank 110 in Black/African American labor force highest engagement out of 381 (65.1%)
  • Rank 22 out of 381 for highest unemployment rate for Black/African American labor force (24.2%) – Area for most improvement
  • Rank 14 in Native American labor force engagement out of 381 (79.1%)
  • Rank 219 out of 381 for highest unemployment rate for Native American labor force (12.9%)
  • Rank 42 in Asian labor force engagement out of 381 (71%)
  • Rank 280 out of 381 for highest unemployment rate for Asian labor force (4.4%)

While it appears that the minority race groups in the MSA are engaged in the labor force, the more suitable opportunity for impact may be to help lower unemployment rates for those groups. For example, the unemployment rate for Black or African American workers was 24.2%, compared to 4.6% for White workers. American Indians (12.9%), people of Two or More Races (8.0%), and workers of Hispanic or Latino origin (12.6%) also had significantly higher rates than whites. While increasing labor force participation rates also helps, reducing the unemployment rate for these workers would much more quickly fill hundreds of jobs.

The So What

GMG currently projects that we are short 2,800 workers over the next 5 years.  If we were able to change the participation rates, or reduce the unemployment to numbers similar to our overall…how many individuals would that add to our labor force?

We could fill 630 jobs if we worked to lower the unemployment rate and raise the labor force engagement rate for diverse populations to rates similar to the white population.  That represents a dent in the shortage.  It’s an opportunity.


Unemployed: All civilians 16 years old and over are classified as unemployed if they (1) were neither “at work” nor “with a job but not at work” during the reference week, and (2) were actively looking for work during the last 4 weeks, and (3) were available to accept a job. Also included as unemployed are civilians who did not work at all during the reference week, but were waiting to be called back to a job from which they had been laid off, and were available for work except for temporary illness.

Not in labor force: includes all people 16 years old and over who are not classified as members of the labor force. This category consists mainly of students, stay at home spouses, retired workers, seasonal workers interviewed in an off-season who were not looking for work, institutionalized people, and people doing only incidental unpaid family work (less than 15 hours during the reference week).

Definition Summary: unemployed workers are actively seeking work; those not in the labor force are not actively seeking work.

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