Changing demographics are headed on a crash course for Minnesota’s employers, business community and the entire economy without immediate action to reform federal immigration laws. Minnesota’s workforce is growing slower while the economy tries to expand. The result is a shortage of workers of all skill levels.

State government is becoming more involved with immigration legislation as the federal government fails to address current and future immigration issues. Most state proposals place a greater burden on employers to check employee immigration status, and, in effect, enforce federal law. If states continue on this path, a system that is now cumbersome, at best, could become confusing and expensive to manage – and be unfair to workers and employers alike.

The Minnesota Labor Force Facts: An aging population with minimal natural growth

    65+ Year-olds surpass school-age generation in 2011
  • In three years the baby boomer generation will start turning 65, and by 2020 the 65-plus generation will surpass the grade-school population. In 2008, Minnesota had a 30-percent jump in workers turning 62 and by 2012 there is projected to be an additional 15-percent increase.
  • The 2008 high school graduating class was the largest graduating class Minnesota will have for over a decade.
  • Growth in Minnesota’s workforce is expected to sharply decrease over the next 15 years. By 2020, the growth in the workforce is estimated to slow down by over 90-percent from the growth levels during 2005-2010.
  • Migration will be an increasingly important component to the slowing labor force growth. By 2020-2030, almost all of the labor force growth is anticipated to be from migrant populations.

Growing immigrant workforce:

  • Immigrants will be increasingly important to meet labor needs.
  • The foreign-born workforce is growing. Foreign-born workers ages 25-34 grew from 8.5-percent of Minnesota’s workforce in 2000 to 12.6-percent in 2006.
  • Foreign-born workers are most concentrated among both the least and most educated in Minnesota.
  • Many industries depend on immigrant workers: restaurants/food service, colleges and universities, hospitals, construction, medical equipment manufacturing, manufacturing, farming, animal slaughtering and processing.
  • Wages are fair. For example:
    • In the dairy and nursery/landscape industries, jobs filled by immigrants typically pay 30 percent to 40 percent above minimum wage.
    • Experienced milkers at dairies often earn more than $30,000/year and most are offered 401(k) accounts and health insurance.
    • Most seasonal nursery and landscaping jobs pay $8 to $18 per hour.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau counts and projections, Minnesota state demographer projections (2007), American
Community Survey (2005, 2006), DEED projections, Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (1990), Minnesota Milk
Producers Association, Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association.

Presentation: September 2018

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