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Thinking long-term in the wake of recession

Recently, the state's economist, Tom Stinson, announced that Minnesota's economy has officially entered a recession. While this news is bleak, it is not entirely surprising, given the downward economic trends our state has been experiencing for several months.

Stinson reported that in the past six months of 2007, Minnesota lost 23,000 jobs.

Further, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) recently reported that unemployment spiked late last year, rising to 4.9 percent in December, matching its highest level since March of 2004. The DEED report also showed that Minnesota continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in job growth and economic expansion. Over the past 12 months, while Minnesota experienced negative job growth, nationally employment grew by nearly a full percent. For 30 years, Minnesota led the nation with our job statistics. Now, over the past several months, unemployment figures have also hovered at or below the national average.

Just days after this economic information was released, I took part in the "One Minnesota" legislative policy conference. At this event, legislators from both parties gathered together to discuss the upcoming legislative session. We were fortunate enough to hear a presentation on the state's economy from Tom Stinson and the state demographer, Tom Gillaspy.

Stinson and Gillaspy said that Minnesota has been a prosperous state because of wise decisions made over 50 years ago. Because our state's leaders invested in a great education system, affordable health care, a quality infrastructure, and research and innovation, we have traditionally held a nation-leading economic position. They said that the state may do well in the short-term by drawing on the prior investments, but how the state will fare in the future will crucially depend on its long-term investments.

Stinson and Gillaspy said point blank that our state's economic productivity will depend on our stock of human capital. This means to have a quality workforce, we need to ensure that our citizens are well-educated and have access to affordable health care. Economic success will also ride on our stock of infrastructure- we must have high-quality roads, bridges, public facilities and utilities if we expect businesses to perform well and locate in our state.

Minnesota's productivity will also depend on advancements in technology and whether we invest in research and development opportunities.

I've long held the opinion that to return Minnesota to its nation-leading economic success, we need to reinvest in what has traditionally made our state great. However, hearing this advice from non-partisan economic experts convinces me that Minnesota's leaders must take seriously our responsibility for the health and vitality of our state's economy. The focus of every decision we make needs to be making the long-term investments that will make our state prosper for generations to come. I remain optimistic that by working together we can meet these difficult challenges and return Minnesota to a position where we once again lead the nation on critical performance measures.

Contact Senator Tony Lourey with your questions or comments on any issue at 651-296-0293, e-mail, or write to 205 State Capitol, St. Paul, MN 55155.