Your economic glass: half full or half empty?


Whether you’re a glass is half empty or half full person, most of us can agree there’s no longer a need to look at the overall economy and say: “Oh no! The glass is falling off the table, crashing to the floor and spilling everywhere.”

Yes, today’s news about Minnesota’s unemployment rate ticking up from 7 percent to 7.1 percent isn’t good. But there are signs of progress.

According to Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Dan McElroy:

“Minnesota employers have added jobs at triple the pace of the U.S. rate in the past year, and lead the national rate of growth in eight of 11 industry sectors.”

And soon we’ll start seeing more holiday season retail hiring.

Here’s the cup is half empty part: The construction industry is seeing prolonged declines, with 12-month job losses at 6,500.

The cup is half full view shows Minnesota’s potential to put thousands of construction workers back on the job. Last week, Minnesota 2020 released a report showing the state has the bonding capacity to pass an emergency off-year bonding bill worth at least $1 billion.

A variety of factors make bonding for public works projects that will enhance long-term economic development a smart investment. They include: historically low bond interest rates, the state’s rock-solid bond rating and unexpectedly low contract bids.

Also, a comprehensive transit investment that includes high speed rail would put people back to work and expand economic development for private industry. However, Wisconsin’s governor-elect is threatening to derail that opportunity by sending federal high-speed rail funding for a Twin Cities-to-Chicago line (via Madison, WI) back to Washington.

Today, leaders of Minnesota’s AFL-CIO sent a letter urging the governor-elect to reconsider.

“The larger Midwest high speed rail initiative would put tens of thousands of people back to work, and make the upper Midwest an even more lucrative place to do business,” they wrote. “If Wisconsin says no to this section of the line, it is likely Minnesota will not see any rail dollars in the future.”

“Turning down this money means jobs for another region instead of the upper Midwest.”

This is smart public investment that will help fuel private industry growth. It’s an investment that will pay future generations dividends. But conservatives would rather push government out of the way and go it alone. Good luck trying to organize and finance statewide infrastructure that will move your products, transport your employees, and power your work sites on your own.