08.10.2018

Has Minnesota really added 2,000 mining and mining-related jobs since 2017?

Jack Nissen

 

Vice President Mike Pence touted the job growth of a resurging mining industry during his visit to Duluth on Wednesday.

“You know today, more than 4,000 people work in the region’s mines,” said Pence. “They support 11,000 jobs across the area.”

“Since President Trump and I took office we couldn’t be more proud of the fact that mining and mining-related industries have added nearly 2,000 jobs just in the Duluth area alone,” said Pence. “Mining is back in Minnesota.”

However, only a fraction of that added employment are direct mining jobs.

“What our data from the quarterly census employment and wages shows is that the mining industry from quarter one in 2017 to quarter one in 2018 has increased by about 200,” said Erik White, a labor market analyst with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, “and that would be mining only.”

White isn’t positive where Pence’s figure came from, but he suspects it came from the Current Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Providing monthly data the total comes out close to an increase of 1,800 positions.

However, that database groups mining jobs with construction jobs, and White said it doesn’t make sense to compare construction employment data during President Donald Trump’s inauguration in the winter with data today.

“The construction industry is really seasonal,” said White. “By comparing January to June, you’re not taking into account the full-time employment of construction because of how the winters are in northeast Minnesota.”

Like construction, mining is a cyclical profession. As the industry continues to climb out of the economic hole it fell into in 2016, White cautions what job growth means for mining. He said it still hasn’t fully recovered since mines closed.

However, when the mines do hire, the wages are good. Well-paying positions in mining often lead to other jobs — which are some of the 11,000 that Pence referenced.

“The theory is that jobs that provide higher wages get placed back into the economy,” said White. “So it helps to support jobs like retail.”