News & Updates

Caring in Central Minnesota

by | Oct 30, 2018 | Economy, Jobs & Wages

Minnesota is getting older every day.1 The aging of our population is increasing demand for home health and personal care workers. We also continue to have population growth through both immigration and natural growth. To fill the needs of our changing population we need people to care for the very young, the very old, and people with disabilities who need assistance to fully participate in Minnesota’s community and economy.2

Central Minnesota is a planning area defined by the State of Minnesota as Benton, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Pine, Renville, Sherburne, Stearns, and Wright Counties.3 Central Minnesota is an interesting case study for the type of needs that we see in regions and communities across the state. It is a region that has seen an increase in the need for caring economy workers and a shortage of people who are able to fill these jobs while continuing to experience low wages for caring economy workers.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) did a recent analysis of the healthcare economy in Central Minnesota and found that there were over 280,000 people employed in the Healthcare and Social Assistance sector.4 This category contains a broad set of occupations including those with high pay such as physicians and those with very low pay under the subset of Personal Care and Service Occupations such personal care aides and child care workers. According to DEED, six of the ten fastest growing jobs in the Health Care and Social Supports sector in Central Minnesota pay less than $15 an hour.5

Who makes up this labor force? Low wage caring economy jobs in Central Minnesota are disproportionately performed by women.6 For example, women are four times more likely than men to work as personal care aides and eleven times more likely to work as home health care aides in the Saint Cloud MSA, the largest population center in Central Minnesota.7 Compared to the overall population, the caring economy of Minnesota has a high proportion of immigrant workers and people of color.8 According to DEED, 18.4% of personal care aides in Minnesota are foreign-born workers.9 Workers of color represent about 37% of the home health care workforce compared to an overall 18.7% of the total population.10

Source: ACS 2012-2016 5 year estimates

Half of the jobs in the Health Care and Social Assistance category in Central Minnesota’s are less than full time.11 Part-time employment is most prevalent in the Personal Care and Service Occupations category where 71% of jobs are part-time and the average wage is $10.18 an hour.12 Only 30% of personal care aides in Minnesota have paid sick time.13

The tight labor market, low pay, and limited benefits make it difficult to attract and retain workers in the caring economy. Central Minnesota currently has 2,682 openings in the Health Care and Social Supports sector including 170 openings for home health aides, 475 for personal care aides, and 135 for child care workers.14 Currently, the job vacancy rate is 4.1% for home health aides, 5.7% for personal care aides, and 13.1% for child care workers.15 Caring economy jobs also have high turnover. Home health aides and personal care aides have a turnover rate of over 40%.16

The shortage of workers in the Central Minnesota caring economy creates a ripple effect on the local economy, particularly the lack of childcare workers. The lack of available childcare makes it difficult for working families to take other employment in the region, creating challenges for local employers who are experiencing a labor shortage. According to the Initiative Foundation, childcare represents one part of the region’s trifecta of interlinked economic challenges along with worker shortages and affordable housing.17 One solution that stakeholders in Central Minnesota are exploring is to increase the status and professionalization of child care as a career.18 The expectation is that this will encourage more people to enter the field and provide people with clearer career paths.19

The largest number of people employed in the Central Minnesota caring economy work as personal care aides.20 These workers ensure that seniors and people with disabilities can live independently and with dignity. Personal care aides in Central Minnesota earn an average wage of $12.49 an hour.21 While this is higher than the average wages for workers in this field in Minnesota as a whole, it is over 40% less than the regional average wage of $17.93 an hour.22

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

Central Minnesota is expected to add 23,338 jobs by 2024.23 Many of these jobs are in caring economy fields, creating more opportunities and more competition for a low wage workforce. In order to fill the demand for caring economy jobs Central Minnesota, employers need to increase wages and benefits. Stronger connections between caring economy workers and unions, acknowledgment of the skills that caring economy jobs require, and fare wage requirements for service providers who receive public dollars could help to ensure that the caring economy is a living wage economy.  Increasing wages will lead to better outcomes for caring economy workers and their families and attract more potential workers to Central Minnesota.



1Demographic Considerations for Long Range and Strategic Planning, Minnesota State Demographic Center,
2Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development,
3Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Planning Areas,
4Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development,
5Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Occupations in Demand,
6U.S. Census Bureau, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, Sex by occupation for the civilian population 16 years and over,
8Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development,
10State of Care: Minnesota’s Home Care Landscape,
11Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development,
13Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of 2014-2016 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and 2016 IPUMS American Community Survey (ACS)
14Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Job Vacancy Survey,
16State of Care: Minnesota’s Home Care Landscape,
17Tackling the Trifecta, IQ Magazine,
18Who Cares About Child Care, IQ Magazine,
20Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Detailed Occupational Data,,US,MN
23Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Employment Outlook,

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