Tribune Editorial: Immigration reform would help solve worker shortage in Minnesota

New research from DEED shows how raising international immigration to levels seen prior to 2015 could help offset a big chunk of Minnesota’s labor force decline.

Minnesota needs workers, and would benefit from some serious immigration reform.

The state continues to experience an extremely tight labor market and workforce shortages are limiting job growth – employers simply can’t find the staff they need to fill open positions.

Even before the pandemic, there was a tight labor labor market because of Minnesota’s aging population, with fewer working age residents as Baby Boomers continued to retire.

New research from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development shows how raising international immigration to levels seen prior to 2015 could help offset a big chunk of Minnesota’s labor force decline.

Even with the decline in the past half decade, New Americans accounted for fully half of Minnesota’s labor force growth from 2010 to 2020.


As it now stands, 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 of workforce shortages across industries throughout the state, according to Interim DEED Commissioner Kevin McKinnon.

Welcoming more immigrants and refugees – and doing more to bring those who are already in Minnesota into the workforce — would go a long way towards easing the state’s severe labor force shortage.

And those people want to work: Previous research has shown that foreign-born residents participate in the labor force at a rate nearly 4% higher than native-born residents.

Analysis and calculations carried out by DEED Labor Market Information Office Regional Analyst Anthony Schaffhauser show that, if Minnesota could wave a magic wand and bring immigration levels back up to 2015 levels, it would erase over 25% of the ongoing labor force shortage projected over the next eight years.

So what kind of numbers are we talking about? The state welcomed 17,000 immigrants in 2015, and that dropped to about 4,000 people in 2021.

While the numbers may not seem big enough to affect the labor market overall – there are more than 3 million people in Minnesota’s workforce – they do make a surprising difference, especially in the ongoing tight labor market, according to Schaffhauser.

View Schaffhauser’s full article in the  current edition of Minnesota Economic Trends .


Immigration is a problem that Congress needs to fix, and Minnesota will be in better shape when Congress finally finds a solution.

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