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Workforce Trends and Careers of Tomorrow:

A Regional Analysis of Talent and Opportunities by Career Field

Author: Erin Olson

A year and a half after COVID-19 first appeared, the impacts of shutdowns, business closures, and shifting workforce needs worldwide have been ongoing and cumulative. Approximately 1.5 million Minnesotans have made initial unemployment claims since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—about 47% of the state’s employed workforce just before the pandemic hit.[1] Many of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt far into the future, and in ways that may still be yet unknown.

This report series unpacks the current workforce landscape of Minnesota and the regional nuances of talent demand by career field. We aim to support Minnesota Perkins Consortia in navigating changes in their local labor market and guide their understanding of how these changes may impact enrollment, industry, career advancement, and the needed programs of study by region.[2]

Current Trends and Future Possibilities

Employment dropped by -7.9% between 2020Q1 and 2021Q1, with an estimated 6.4% of the Minnesota workforce being unemployed by the start of 2021.  Future growth in jobs in Minnesota is forecasted to grow by about 1.5% averaged annually through 2025 in the most optimistic scenario shown below in black, though lagging behind employment in prior years considerably. A pessimistic forecast based on baseline data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development, assuming the pandemic’s effects do not worsen nor get better, puts employment growth closer to 0.2%.

5-Year Forecast Comparison in Minnesota

The pandemic has had some surprising impacts on talent demand due to changing healthcare, human services, supply chain, and customer service needs. For roles that require close contact with the public, high growth was forecast in Minnesota just prior to the pandemic, but quickly shifted as businesses temporarily or permanently closed their doors. Experiences have varied moderately by region. Unemployment rates are slightly higher among High Contact-Intensity occupations in all regions but the Southeast, where Health Science Technology careers saw dramatic increases in employment between 2020Q1 and 2021Q1.

Regional Summary of High Contact-Intensity Careers

*Table includes high-volume occupations with over 18% losses in employment between 2020Q1 and 2021Q1. SOURCE: Chmura JobsEQ 2021Q1 dataset.

Roles that saw some of the biggest losses in most regions include Fast Food and Counter Workers, Waiters and Waitresses, Passenger Vehicle Drivers, and Bartenders. These occupations also have the highest estimated unemployment rates, and many other individuals previously in these roles have taken new career and educational paths since the pandemic began.

The occupations of highest forecasted shortage in Minnesota have remained consistent since the last analysis in October 2020, still showing that there is a shortage of local Nurses, Software Developers, General and Operations Managers, and Financial Managers, among other critical healthcare, information technology, and management occupations.

Average Annual Occupation Gaps (i.e. Talent Shortage), 2021Q1 through 2031Q1

From September 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021 there were over one million unique job postings advertised online in Minnesota on job boards, according to analysis using Gartner TalentNeuron Plan (1,090,185 postings). This was 14% higher than the 12 months prior.  About 13% of all positions advertised were explicitly listed as remote or telecommute roles—either permanently or temporarily. Remote positions increased in prevalence by 121% from the 12 months prior. Remote work opportunities increased significantly among Information Technology careers and Business, Management, and Administration roles over the past 12 months compared to the 12 months prior.

Total Jobs (Blue) and Remote Jobs (Purple) Advertised Monthly in Minnesota, September 2019 – 2021

Blue = All Job Postings Advertised Online Purple = Remote Positions    SOURCE: Gartner TalentNeuron Plan accessed 10/5/21

Career Field Insights

Analysis of the sixteen CTE Clusters provides an entryway into career pathways, summarizing where opportunities are greatest among hundreds of occupations.

Of sixteen career clusters used by Career and Technical Education (CTE), eleven are forecast in a worst-case scenario model to increase in overall employment over the next ten years. The clusters expecting the greatest growth statewide are Human Services (17.1%), Information Technology (9.4%), and Health Science (9.1%). The metro is the only region in the state where IT ranks in one of the top three clusters of highest percent growth (though it ranks fourth in the Northeast, Southeast, and Central regions). In contrast, Arts, Audio/Video Technology and Communications (-5.9%) is anticipating the greatest declines in overall employment statewide. Nine of the career clusters offer average wages above the average occupation wage statewide ($59,100).[3]

Baseline Worst-Case Scenario 10-Year Forecasts by Career Cluster, Minnesota 2021Q1

Cluster forecasts estimated using Chmura, JobsEQ, based on 2020Q1 employment data. All clusters are distinct occupations except for Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, which overlaps with other clusters. SOURCE: Chmura JobsEQ 2021Q1 dataset.

Statewide, Hospitality and Tourism, Business, Management, and Administration, and Marketing, Sales, and Service clusters are expected to have the highest annual job demand by volume of opportunities—due to retirements and job changes. Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics has the highest wages of the Career Clusters followed by the Information Technology and Finance clusters.

The Northwest and Southwest regions of Minnesota are forecasting the lowest overall baseline future growth, but the Southwest, Central, and Southeast regions all saw improvements in many of the Career Cluster forecasts between 2020Q1 and 2021Q1 (indicated by a “+” in the table below).

Cluster Forecasts by Region


Throughout each region of Minnesota, the most in-demand occupations of the future require a 2-year degree or higher, offer high average wages, and will likely experience talent shortages within the next three years and beyond due to low qualified talent pool located within the region. All six career and technical education Career Fields are likely to experience talent shortages and oversupply in certain occupations and skill areas in the current anticipated trajectory of workforce demand and overall economic recovery, though much remains uncertain. Overall, digital skills, human skills, and business enablers will be the foundational skills of the future both in Minnesota and nationwide. Remote work and digital skills have grown in importance during the first year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic and all signs indicate that these features of the workplace are here to stay.

Minnesota faces an immediate and short-term challenge of high unemployment among high contact-intensity roles and rapidly changing job requirements. However, many of the occupation shortages initially identified prior to the pandemic and early in the first months of the pandemic’s impact continue to be relevant to the current and future needs of Minnesota businesses. There is greater urgency to address these talent shortages now the pandemic accelerates some businesses to automate, modernize, and reskill the workforce in a changing market.

For an in-depth analysis of the six critical career clusters statewide and detail by region, visit our CTE Pathways page.

[1] Unemployment Statistics, MN Department of Employment and Economic Development. March 16, 2020 – August 27, 2020. Accessed 9/4/2020 at

[2] All labor market data in this report comes from Chmura Economics JobsEQ Dataset 2021Q1 unless otherwise noted.

[3] Clusters paying an average salary higher than the regional average occupation wage include Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Information Technology, Finance, Health Science, Government and Public Administration, Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security, Business, Management, and Administration, and Architecture and Construction.