Research from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says an increased immigration level could help the state. Credit: Sahan Journal

More immigrants could help offset a significant portion of the labor force decline witnessed recently in Minnesota, according to new research from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The research shows how increasing international immigration to levels Minnesota saw prior to 2015 could help ease the state’s labor shortage.

“Minnesota manufacturers aren’t able to expand in some cases because they can’t find employees—and Minnesota nursing homes aren’t able to care for patients ready to be released from hospitals because they don’t have enough caregivers. Those are just two examples of the impact we’ve seen of workforce shortages across industries, throughout the state,” said Kevin McKinnon, temporary commissioner of the department also known as DEED.

According to a news release from the department: Minnesota’s “extremely tight labor market” can be attributed to workforce shortages, and employers can’t find the staff they need to fill open positions. The COVID-19 pandemic along with a decline in working-age Minnesotans, such as Baby Boomers who continue to retire, also factored into the shortage.

Baby boomers were aged 56 to 74 in 2020, and made up about 22.5 percent of Minnesota’s labor force that year, compared to 21.5 percent for the entire United States that same year, according to the DEED analysis.

From 2010 to 2020, foreign-born workers made up more than half of the state’s labor force growth, according to Abdiwahab Mohamed, DEED’s assistant commissioner for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

“Welcoming more immigrants and refugees—and doing more to bring our New American neighbors who are already in Minnesota into our labor force—will help ease our severe labor force shortage,” Mohamed said in the news release.

Previous research has shown that foreign-born residents participate in the labor force at a rate 3.8 percent higher than U.S.-born residents, according to DEED.

Analysis and calculations carried out by Anthony Schaffhauser, DEED’s labor market information office regional analyst, shows that bringing immigration back up to 2015 levels now through 2030 would erase over 25 percent of the ongoing labor shortage projected for the next eight years, according to the release.

“The pandemic caused a steeper decline in an already declining immigration trend since 2016,” Schaffhauser said in the release. “While the numbers may not seem big enough to affect our labor market overall—there are more than 3 million people in Minnesota’s workforce—they do make a big difference, especially in our ongoing tight labor market.”

Schaffhauser’s full analysis can be found on DEED’s website.

Alfonzo Galvan is a reporter for Sahan Journal, covering work, labor, small business, and entrepreneurship. Before joining Sahan Journal, he covered breaking news and immigrant communities in South Dakota,...