Thursday, May 25, 2006

Not all economists befuddled 

Sean at The American Mind is a fellow reader of economics though it's not his profession. He sent me a link to a story that wonders why Milwaukee's employment falls while the rest of the state rises? It turns out true for us in St. Cloud as well -- the labor force is lower now than in 2004. Did they all move to the suburbs and out of the market area? I think that's partly true -- one of those little details in the local data is that St. Cloud's Metropolitan Statistical Area or MSA, for which we typically report labor statistics, does not include Sherburne County. (St. Cloud sits at the crux of three counties -- Benton, Sherburne and Stearns.) Sherburne is part of Minneapolis/St. Paul's MSA. Could our decline be due to more people leaving St. Cloud's other two counties to live in Sherburne, which has ready access from Highway 10 to the northern suburbs of Minneapolis? I'm planning a study of that in the near future.

It should come as no surprise that Milwaukee is seeing flight from the central city to its suburbs. The map I just linked shows the MSA. If there are that many people moving to the edges of the MSA by 2000, it stands to reason that more people are moving (just) outside the MSA now. People are willing to make longer trips now (between the 1990 and 2000 Censuses, average commute times rose 3.1 minutes to 25.5 minutes each way.) I suspect Milwaukee is just seeing people move out. But along with that follows services like retail. If the population is moving out of the metro Milwaukee area, so too do the service jobs. It's worth noting that goods-sector employment has risen by almost 1000 over the last 12 months there.

It's also worth remembering in this story that the unemployment data reported at the end of the article come from a different survey than the payroll data from employers that most of the story reports. The end of this story is making the rest of the story more confusing (if I was his editor, I'd've deleted it; it adds nothing to the story.)