Duluth 12th Best City in U.S. to Find Jobs?

Dailybeast.com has posted it’s top 20 Best U.S. Cities to find a job (not necessarily a career) and our beloved Duluth ranks 12th and Rochester, MN is #1. Hailing from Rochester I could understand it being nemero uno, but stating that Duluth is 12th in the country is a little baffling. Is it that good here?

#12. Duluth, MN
Job Growth: 11.26 percent
Jobs Gained: 14,208
Manufacturing and mills are a major part of Duluth’s economy, and the city is a huge transportation hub for manufacturing materials. But health care and education are major employers, too.

20 Best Cities to Find Jobs

I wonder what statistics the DailyBeast accessed to get Duluth placed right behind Boulder, CO and right in front of Brownsville, TX?


Terry G.

about 14 years ago

Stats that the DailyBeast used (taken from the article):

But which metro areas will have the most job growth? To get at this, my Martin Prosperity Institute team applied the detailed employment projections of the BLS to U.S. metro regions. The BLS forecasts job trends across 22 major occupational groups, which include more than 822 specific job categories for the decade 2008 through 2018. My MPI team used these BLS national forecasts to generate similar estimates for each of America's 392 metro regions. We used the BLS overall estimations to predict job growth in each region based on its current mix of jobs.

Don Ness

about 14 years ago

I am curious about the details of the BLS forecasts to pinpoint Duluth's strengths.  But clearly, that we are mentioned in this list at all is another sign of changing times in Duluth.

Duluth's unemployment figures have been lower than the state and national averages for most of the past two years (that had not been the case for at least the previous 40 years).  Our private job creation numbers have been strong, at the same time we've had fewer government jobs.

Another recent national analysis found Duluth to have one of the strongest housing markets in the nation.  

Think of how far we have come.  Back in the early 80s Duluth had the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation (only behind Newark) and faced the threat of a downward spiral of many old industrial Midwest cities.  But Duluth redefined itself.

There is no question, we need more career-oriented jobs and wages, we need to do a better job of keeping students and young folks in town, we need to fix our problems, and make sure our local employers do well.

But, I think we can start letting go of the defeatism and the pessimism that has been holding us back.  

Whether we are number 12 or not, and what the source of the numbers are -- who knows?  But I think we should be proud of the fact that we're on the positive end of these sort of lists, because it wasn't too long ago that Duluth was consistently on the other end.

I'm going to go home and celebrate these numbers with a cold beer.

Shane Bauer

about 14 years ago

I celebrated these numbers earlier today before I knew they existed.


about 14 years ago

Any teachers getting hired these days?  Qualified minds would love to know.


about 14 years ago

I'd like to see where these jobs are.  My husband was laid off 1-1/2 years ago -- skilled scientist can't even get a manual labor job in Duluth.  We are doing everything thing we can to stay in Duluth, but Duluth employers would rather hire a 19-year-old college student than a man in his 30s that wants to stay in this town.

The result?  Duluth is losing another family to the Cities.  Our tax dollars can go help another city that has jobs.


about 14 years ago

I would really like to know the statistics behind this article. They sound a little fishy to me being that they are no posted statistical deviations on the estimates they make. I feel a majority of these jobs come in under the $10/hr range. The only entity I really see doing a lot of hiring above the poverty line for a family in Duluth is the hospitals.

Don, I usually support a lot of what you do but your comment makes me think that your celebratory beer was a little hasty when you don't even know what kind of jobs were created. I have multiple degrees and over ten years experience and I have been looking for a job that somewhat even resembles my field for two years. Amazingly, I get interviews in the cities but not in Duluth. I get a little peaved when you throw up your arms in success when families like mine are forced to move south. In fact, besides a good three year stint all my "real" jobs I have had to move out of Duluth for. Maybe you should focus more of your time on retaining some of the local talent rather than celebrating an article that doesn't post its statistical analysis methods. Even with the best of optimism it is hard to pay the mortgage with wishes and dreams. I want to stay in Duluth, but for the third time around it looks like I will have to move.

On a more positive note, before I am financially forced out of Duluth I would like to know if there is anything I can do to help attract these employers to Duluth. I have worked with APEX to get my name to employers in the region, but don't know of any group that I can directly support with my time instead of money. Don't tell me to open my own business either. We aren't all trustafarians!!

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

I don't think the mayor could have been any clearer:

"There is no question, we need more career-oriented jobs and wages, we need to do a better job of keeping students and young folks in town, we need to fix our problems, and make sure our local employers do well. "But, I think we can start letting go of the defeatism and the pessimism that has been holding us back."
Let the guy have a beer. Sheesh.


about 14 years ago

Paul - the mayor can have as many beers as he wants.  It just felt like it was a premature celebration - to me it was the first time the mayor wrote something where I felt like he was out of touch of what life is like for people who desperately want to stay in this town.

I'm not being defeatist or pessimistic.  My problems are not yours.  My point of view is just from someone who is really sad to have to leave this town.  I can't raise a toast to that.


about 14 years ago

I am all in favor of letting go of the defeatism and pessimism, but I agree, the bare numbers are misleading. If the question was about careers rather than "jobs" something tells me the results would have been very different.

Don Ness

about 14 years ago

From what I understand, this is an analysis of future job growth - the position that a city is in to create jobs given macroeconomic trends in the nation.  I certainly wouldn't put much weight on the ranking, except to say in the most general sense it is a positive indication of where Duluth is headed.  The success story is about what has happened over the past 30 years - not what has happened in the past 3 years.  

Getting away from speculative analysis, our relatively low unemployment is a more tangible look at where we are today. Consider how devastating past recessions have been on our region (near 20% unemployment in the early 80s) and we can point to that as real progress for our city.

I spend most of my time focused on and talking about the problems we face.  At the same time, there are some pretty positive things that are taking place in our city and I think it's ok to celebrate the progress we've made from time to time.

But, to stress what I said in my first post - I'm definitely NOT satisfied at where we are right now.  We've got a lot of unresolved problems and we've got a lot of untapped potential.  

But hey, if a national analysis says that we are well positioned to create jobs in the coming years, I'll take that as a challenge to prove them right.


about 14 years ago

If they chose the definition of 'metro area' which goes by county, their stats would be including all of St. Louis County. If that's the case some of this might be them picking up on the rebound in iron range taconite industry jobs that's occurred this year as an indirect consequence of relatively tight demand for iron elsewhere on the planet.  Might be where the "mills" in that "manufacturing and mills" sentence came from.  

Of course a lot of the recent job growth in that field is just people returning to work who were laid off in '08 and '09, but there does appear to be a decent chance at long-term solidity and maybe growth up on the Range with things like Magnetation, the iron nugget operation, Essar's would-be-revolutionary steel mill, and precious non-ferrous metal mining (depending on how environmental issues are or are not satisfactorily addressed).


about 14 years ago

...but the real "careers" here are few and far between, unless you want to work in banking, real estate, or something you have to wear a tie and shave your face for.

We have a lot of great "off the norm" companies here, like Epicurian/Loll and Alakef (there are a fistfull more, but those are the two that spring to mind) which retain their employees well and pay above the norm for the region ... but those jobs are few and their turnover rates are extremely low.

Terry G.

about 14 years ago

So, basically, the statistics must be wrong because everyone knows Duluth sucks. 

Good lord people.

The Big E

about 14 years ago

Giving Don Ness the third degree for accentuating the positive seems uncalled for in this case.  That said, I am inclined to be a little cautious about this pronouncement, given that the source is Richard Florida [ whom we've talked about a number of times here]:
"Wondering where the jobs of the future are going to be? Richard Florida crunched the numbers to create a list of the American cities with the fastest-growing job markets, from New York to Durham to Bethesda."
A few years ago, Florida was ostensibly involved [1] in a Knight Foundation project intended to jumpstart Duluth's growth as a center of the "creative class" that he talks about all the time. That was before he changed his mind and decided you couldn't entice/create a creative class out in flyover-land. This seems a little inconsistent to me. [1] Apparently he really wasn't very involved, according to local participants in the Duluth project.


about 14 years ago

From the perspective of a health care professional, I have to say there are not many appealing nursing jobs in Duluth.  Of course, I am at the top of my field here in Rochester.  That being said, when it comes time to move (a year or two) we will probably be looking to Portland, Oregon, where nursing and labor (Mrs. Lojasmo) jobs are plentiful.

@rollergirl:  Kim?



about 14 years ago


I know this is a sensitive subject for me now. Ugh! I didn't mean to fire on Ness so harshly, but I did think it was an insensitive comment considering many are still unemployed in the area and finding a "career" position in Duluth IS difficult.

I am still unsure whether or not the study can even be found to be positive. I don't know what jobs are used to create the data, but it seems like we should know that before stating it means something significant to the region.

I would still like to know if anybody is willing to donate info about what Duluth is currently doing to attract "career" type employment to the Northland and how/where an individual can donate time to help the cause.

And nobody said Duluth sucks! It is quite the contrary Duluth rocks! That is why I would like to WORK and LIVE here.

Don Ness

about 14 years ago

I agree the celebratory beer was too much in reaction to an undocumented study.  In my defense it was 5:30 on Friday afternoon after a very long week.  I would have celebrated successfully closing my office door, if I didn't have something else to point to.

Here's a few things were doing to promote quality jobs:
-  Investing in Workforce Development
-  First new zoning code in 50 years
-  One stop shop for developers (reform of permitting process)
-  Private sector leaders on DEDA
-  Reclaiming brownfields (Atlas Cement, US Steel Plant site, Bayfront, 43rd - 45th W, Clyde) to ready for development
-  Supporting start-up companies like GeaCom

We all have a role in local job creation - it's about supporting local employers and promoting Duluth as a good place to live and work.  We tend to self define Duluth as a bad place to do business and project pessimism about our ability to compete and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We've got to give folks a reason to feel optimistic about Duluth's future in order to take the risk necessary to start a business and hire employees.


about 14 years ago

Geez, I wish I had known this when I couldn't find any tech jobs in Duluth when I was laid off.  My family now resides in La Crosse WI.  I could find a few contract spots in Duluth, but nothing career wise.  The other 4 techies laid off with me also moved out of town. 

Our house is still for sale though so hopefully some of these new jobs will enable someone to buy our house.  We still love the area and have visited a few time times since our move in May.

Drew Digby

about 14 years ago

The big picture is that Duluth's economy is much better than it used to be. And there's a brighter future than we've had in a long time. 

The job situation right now is tough. Really tough. But the future for this area is good. And we have dozens of good employers who have done really interesting things that have staying power, whether they are Loll Designs, LHB, or Compudyne.

Here are some notes on the numbers in the Daily Beast report:

The original data is from the U.S. Department of Labor's 10-year occupation predictions. Florida's folks then transformed the data to see how each metropolitan statistical area would do. Yes, I've worked with Florida's folks and have mixed feelings about them, but there's nothing in this study that's really surprising if you've worked with predictions for what's going to happen. A fair number of studies have shown that this area has a really good mix of base industries for the future, whether it's in housing, jobs or culture.

Some notes on the data:
--It covers the Duluth-Superior Metro Area, which is all of St. Louis County, all of Carlton County, and all of Douglas County Wisconsin. It's one of the oddest MSA's because of the amount of rural landscape, and the mining. It includes a big chunk of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Voyageurs National Park. Using a census bureau measurement, just 0.7% of the Duluth-Superior Metro is "urbanized", though that number goes up to 1% if you don't count our lakes. A more typical Metro area is 30% or more urbanized.
--48% of the Metro area's jobs were in Duluth in 2009.
--Our big growth areas: Health care, higher education, and professional and technical services (especially architecture, engineering, and information systems design).
--The predictions don't count the jobs we've lost, and in some cases regained, during the recession. So all of the miners who have come back to work don't figure into this. The long-term prediction for mining included in this study actually shows employment there going down (We can argue about jobs from Polymet another time, but they're not included in this study). 
--Yes, there are a lot of non-living-wage jobs in the area. They're everywhere. But a lot of our predicted growth is in professions like architecture and engineering.
--A lot of the good jobs are going to require some kind of advanced technical training. And if the company goes south or you don't mesh with the management, there may not be an equivalent job in town. Much of our job market is going to be far more unstable moving forward, but that applies everywhere.
--Is there uncertainty? Absolutely. Architecture and Engineering is a good example. Between 2003 and 2008, the field grew by 49% in Northeast Minnesota, higher in Duluth. The recession has been a really rocky ride for the field. Some projects have been really, really good, but some jobs are gone. We've got really smart folks running some of those firms and they found ways to sell their services in a huge geographic range. It's not going to be easy, but I think they're going to do well in the long run.
--Health Care has big challenges ahead of it, from the hospitals to the hundreds of long-term care homes. In Duluth in 2009, more than 30% of every dollar taken home by workers in Duluth came from health care in one way or another. There isn't a major part of health care that isn't going through some tough restructuring. And for every good job, there are two or three not so pleasant jobs in the field.
--Higher Education faces not just big budget cuts from the state. But one of the primary sources for the growth in students, fresh out of high school types from the suburbs, is on the decline. Can the colleges here retool and become more welcoming for non-traditional students and students of color? And don't forget that the MnSCU schools in the region, like Lake Superior College, have done a really good job of attracting students from around the state. They have a good reputation as places to get a degree that leads to a job. 

All of that said, though the glass is half-full. Probably three-quarters full. There's a lot of work to be done. Yes, we all have friends who can't find a job. But let's celebrate that things are better here than in a lot of other places right now. And our future looks good.


about 14 years ago

Excellent overview Digby. Trends are just that, trends. Individual experiences are not trends. Perhaps the glass-half-full contingent would prefer a disclaimer at the bottom of all pronouncements:  "Results not typical, your experience may vary."


about 14 years ago

I meant "glass-half-empty." See, my own optimism sometimes gets in the way!

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