In a virtual roundtable of Minnesota manufacturers from across the state on Oct. 14, I heard a clear message from business leaders: We are hiring.

The skilled labor shortage was a challenge for manufacturers long before the pandemic, and it stubbornly remains despite relatively high unemployment. It is one of the paradoxes of this recession.

Joel Bauer, co-owner of Midsota Manufacturing in Avon, told me, “I’ve hired 26 new employees over the past two months, and I could have hired 26 more if I’d had the applicants.”  

Joel is not alone. In October, I had a virtual visit with Felling Trailers in Sauk Centre as part of an economic recovery tour I’m making throughout Minnesota. The family-owned trailer manufacturer employs 267 workers in Central Minnesota and didn’t lay off a single employee during the pandemic – and they’re actively trying to fill over 20 positions right now.

The common theme from manufacturers to restaurant owners, salon operators and retailers remains the same: How do we balance the need to protect our economy with the need to protect public health?

This is a difficult balance to be sure, but I believe Minnesota is getting it right, thanks to the input of business and labor leaders, public health experts and community representatives. We’ve been able to foster steady growth in economic activity and jobs since May.

These have been difficult times. In Central Minnesota, the pandemic employment impacts have not been as dramatic as they have been in Northeast Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro, but they’ve been historic just the same: 27.5% of the labor force in Central Minnesota have applied for Unemployment Insurance at some point between March and today.

But there is good news. Continuing Unemployment Insurance claims in Central Minnesota peaked at 48,590 in mid-April; and were back down to 13,784 in the week ending Sept. 26. It’s clear many people who lost work during the early days of the pandemic have gone back to work.

And there are lots of good jobs out there.

DEED is taking a multi-pronged approach to connect people who need work with the employers who need them. We’re shining a spotlight on Minnesota employers with a new feature called #GoodJobsNow that we’re promoting on DEED’s digital channels.

With our workforce development partners in the CareerForce system, we’re making sure that Minnesotans know employers are hiring by highlighting the top 30 types of jobs posted in Minnesota now on

Through Dislocated Worker Services, we’re working to help people who may need new skills to prepare for a new career path. And through the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership, DEED is continuing to work with employers and training providers to ensure that workers have the right skills to help companies thrive and Minnesotans advance in their careers.

When you look around the Minnesota economy, there is a lot to be inspired by. Minnesota businesses are doing their part to help our state weather this pandemic in a multitude of ways. Felling Trailers is no exception: they’re helping out fellow Sauk Centre businesses that faced challenges due to the pandemic by contributing to the COVID Business Response Fund set up by the Sauk Centre Area Community Foundation.

Your state government is humbled to partner with business, labor and community leaders throughout Minnesota as we work through economic recovery. I’m confident that Minnesota is uniquely positioned to recover from this pandemic, given our strong work ethic, our tradition of innovation and our commitment to the greater good.

We will emerge stronger than ever – with an economy that offers opportunities for all Minnesotans.

This is the opinion of Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove.

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