Minnesota ice cream scoopers can make $17 an hour as the state scrambles for workers
- Minnesota's unemployment rate is just 1.8% — nearly 2 points lower than the national average.
- The tight labor market means businesses must pay well above state minimum wage of $8.42 an hour.
Businesses are upping their wages in the tight labor market of Mankato, Minn., where open positions outnumber available workers.
In a state where the unemployment rate is 1.8%, nearly two points lower than the national average, the jobless rate in Mankato – home to 103,000 – is even lower. That's forcing companies to compete with one another by offering far above Minnesota's minimum hourly wage of $8.42 and more benefits, the Washington Post reports.
According to the report, Minnesota boasted a bustling labor market even before the pandemic. It's the corporate home for the likes of Target, Best Buy, UnitedHealth Group, and more.
Now, companies offering service jobs must compete to hire enough employees to operate smoothly. One Minnesota State University student raved about "the best job (he's) ever had" as an ice cream scooper where he makes $17 per hour plus tips.
"Even in fast food. If you're working full-time at McDonald's, you can make $15 an hour," local economic development specialist Ryan Vesey said, according to The Post. "This is a community where if the minimum wage were to go up, I don't think it would be noticed."
The high demand places power in the hands of workers as businesses grow desperate to fill roles. Mankato residents report that the local mall shuts down early, and sometimes for days, due to lack of employees.
Mankato-based metal factory Jones Metal offers a starting wage of $23.50 an hour for welders, while also automating jobs to keep the family-owned business afloat, the Post says.
"Workers have extraordinary amounts of choice in Minnesota," Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, said in an August press conference.
He said companies in Minnesota are "reticent" even to lay off workers. "Labor is such a prized asset right now at any given firm that it's hard for firms to think about slowing down or letting folks go even if maybe their projections are different."
Employers who face trouble finding employees with desired skills have been forced to get creative. "Increasingly we're seeing employers really shift how they think about training folks on the job, changing their perception of what a good candidate coming in the door looks like, and doing some really unique things to sign people up," Grove said.
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