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Close proximity to job markets in the Twin Cities has led to high levels of commuting in Isanti County.
Chief Executive Officer Barb Chaffee and Regional Mananger Rita Borchert from Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services presented to commissioners during the Isanti County Board meeting Feb. 20.
Included in the presentation was demographic and economic information about people within the county from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
Just 38 percent of Isanti County residents worked within their home county in 2011, Borchert said. In contrast, 61 percent worked in other counties in Minnesota, and another 1 percent worked in a different state.
This mobility led to longer travel times for Isanti County workers, including 34 percent of residents who commute more than 45 minutes to work one way.
This was three times higher than the percentage of workers in the state who commuted that long. Just one in four workers traveled less than 15 minutes to work, as compared to one in three statewide.
According to commuting patterns data from the Census Bureau, about half of Isanti County residents were driving into the seven county Twin Cities metro area for work. In contrast, Isanti County draws workers from surrounding counties, including Kanabec, Anoka, Chisago, Pine and Mille Lacs.
With 37,816 people in 2010, Isanti County is the 26th largest county in the state, out of 87 counties. After gaiining 6,529 people over the last decade — a 21 percent increase — it was the sixth fastest growing county in the state. In comparison, the state gained about 385,000 people from 2000 to 2010, about an 8 percent increase.
Isanti County’s recent growth is part of a long-term trend, Borchert said. Over the last half century, the county nearly tripled in size from 13,530 people in 1960 to 37,816 people in 2010.
According to data from the 2010 Census Bureau, Isanti County had a much younger population than the state of Minnesota as a whole. Just over one-fourth of the population was under 18 years of age, as compared to about 24 percent in the state.
However, Isanti County had a smaller percentage of people ages 15 to 34 as compared to the state. With a median age of 37.6 years in 2010, Isanti County had a higher percentage of people 35 to 54 years old than the state.
Combined, 43 percent of the population was between 25 and 54 years of age. Finally, about one-fourth of the population was 55 years and over, including 4,680 people who were 65 years and over.
Workforce and Unemployment Rate
Due to the county’s population growth, the size of Isanti County’s labor force had also been expanding in the last decade, before slowing in the last year.
With just over 20,850 workers in 2012, Isanti County gained 1,600 available workers since 2002, about an 8 percent increase. That was more than twice as fast as the state of Minnesota, which saw its labor force grow 3 percent from 2002 to 2012, a gain of just under 95,000 workers.
Unfortunately, the number of unemployed workers also went up rapidly over the last 10 years, leading to higher unemployment rates.
The number of unemployed workers rose from 1,011 people in 2002 to 2,291 in 2009, before dropping to about 1,421 unemployed workers in 2012. Isanti County’s rate peaked at 10.4 percent in 2009, before falling back to 6.8 percent in 2012.
Prior to the recession, Isanti County’s unemployment rate was consistently about 1 percent above the state rate, but during the recession, Isanti’s rate climbed about 2 percent above the state rate before dropping back to within 1 percent of the state rate in 2012.
Industry Employment Characteristics
Through the second quarter of 2012, Isanti County was home to 785 business establishments with 10,508 covered jobs, paying out average weekly wages of $678.
The population growth helped Isanti County add jobs in several industries in the last decade, but the lingering recession and population leveling led to a 0.7 percent year-over-year job decrease, a loss of 70 covered jobs.
In addition to covered employment, Isanti County also had 2,701 nonemployer establishments in 2010 as well as 910 farms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Census of Agriculture.
Of the 16 main industry sectors with discloseable data in Isanti County, nine of them gained jobs from the second quarter of 2011 to the second quarter of 2012.
Despite being the largest and fastest growing industry in Isanti County for most of the decade, health care and social assistance cut 16 jobs in the last year. However, health care and social assistance still provided one in every four covered jobs in the county, with 25 percent of total employment, or 2,621 covered jobs at 64 establishments.
Retail trade was the next largest industry in Isanti County, providing 1,557 jobs at 102 business establishments after seeing a small decline in the last year. The related accommodation and food services industry, with 42 firms and 798 jobs, saw a small increase in the last year, adding 13 additional jobs.
After suffering severe cuts in the prior two years, manufacturing saw employment gains over the last 24 months, expanding by 314 net new jobs from the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2012, including an 18 percent increase in the last year. Manufacturing now had 1,431 jobs, and provided 14 percent of total county employment.
Educational services provided 1,136 jobs at 13 establishments in 2012, and saw a slight increase due to steady enrollments in elementary and secondary schools. In contrast, the slowing housing market and leveling population forced construction employers to shed another 11 jobs year-over-year, to 267 jobs at 149 firms.
Other important industries in Isanti County included public administration, which offered 527 jobs at 26 organizations; administrative support and waste management services with 287 jobs at 31 firms; finance and insurance with 286 jobs at 35 firms; and other services, which provided 385 jobs at 75 small businesses, after gaining 16 net new jobs from 2011 to 2012. Administrative support and waste management services, wholesale trade, and manufacturing were among the highest paying sectors in the county.