Minnesota’s problem: Not enough job-seekers

The economic engine that is driving Minnesota’s government surplus may be running out of fuel — that is, workers needed to fill the job openings out there.

Minnesota’s recent budget forecast, which predicts a $1.5 billion surplus over the next two years, also contains some data that should cause concern. The state has had fewer job-seekers than jobs for the past 18 months. Good news for job seekers, but bad for employers.

There are steps that can be taken. The state can do more to fund education programs focused on creating the skilled workers that so many building trades and manufacturing businesses are seeking. Fairmont Area Schools is one that has done an incredible job of creating vocational training, working in conjunction with area businesses. The school and these firms deserve continued and expanded support.

The federal government, i.e. Congress, could do its part by promoting orderly, legal immigration, to attract skilled workers and their families. The proper tradeoff would be to secure the border and enforce the immigration laws.

All levels of government could review laws that affect employment, whether through incentives not to work or disincentives to do so. Government also should enforce work and training requirements for those obtaining government assistance.

Employers could do more. Higher wages are an obvious avenue, but not every business can afford them. So employers need to consider other incentives, such as flexible hours, bonuses when the company does well or assistance with child care.

Everyone, from the state on down to the local level, could do something that is seldom done: They could ask for help. Perhaps from retirees, by telling them that their contributions remain vital to the health of the economy. Some might enjoy a part-time job.

In the end, the labor shortage is not good, but it beats the alternative, which is a job shortage. We see solutions coming easier for the former compared to the latter.

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