Lyon County and the city of Marshall have both consistently had much lower unemployment rates than the rest of the state and nation, even during the recent recession. The city of Marshall’s unemployment rate was below 3.0 percent annually from 2000 to 2008 – which was consistently a point and a half or more below the state rate. Even as the recession forced unemployment rates to jump across the nation, Marshall’s unemployment rate remained low – 4.3 percent in 2009 and back down to 3.7 percent in 2010. Likewise, Lyon County’s unemployment rate was at least a half percent below the state rate each year from 2002 to 2007, and at least a point below the state rate between 2008 and 2010. See Figure 2-3.
The aging and declining population has been reflected in the size of the available labor force in the county over the last decade. From 2001 to 2010, Minnesota’s labor force expanded 3.7 percent, gaining about 105,000 net new available workers. Lyon County’s labor force shrunk about 2.6 percent, a loss of about 400 workers from 2001 to 2010. Likewise, the number of workers in Marshall dropped by about 250, a 2.4 percent decline. These declines have kept the county’s labor force margins very tight, especially in comparison to other areas where unemployment rates have surpassed 10 percent or more.
For workers in Lyon County, commute times have remained relatively short, especially in comparison to other parts of the state and nation. Nearly two-thirds (62.2%) of workers in Lyon County traveled less than 15 minutes one way to work in 2009, as compared to just 33.4 percent statewide and 28.5 percent in the U.S. Another fourth (26.5%) of workers drove more than 15 minutes but less than a half hour, meaning approximately 90 percent of Lyon County workers had short commutes. The remaining 11.3 percent of workers traveled more than 30 minutes to work each day, including 2.7 percent that commuted more than an hour one way. In Minnesota, 28.9 percent traveled longer than a half hour, while more than a third (35.3%) of U.S. workers commuted more than 30 minutes. See Table 2-3.
As noted above, Lyon County has a slightly younger population and workforce than the rest of the state. Nearly one in five workers in Lyon County (19.5%) was between 14 and 24 years of age, as compared to about one in every seven workers statewide (15.2%). About two-thirds of the county’s workforce was between 25 and 54 years of age, often considered the prime working years. Lyon County also had a slightly lower percentage of 55 to 64 year old workers, representing the baby boomers who will be nearing retirement age in the next 5 to 10 years. The percentage of Lyon County’s workforce that had already reached retirement age was identical to the state’s. See Table 2-4.
Lyon County’s workforce is projected to continue declining over the next two decades, mostly because of the loss of workers from the Baby Boom generation. However, those same Baby Boomers comprise the only age group expected to see labor force growth in the future – as older workers are expected to stay in the labor force longer both because of increasing life expectancies and the financial challenges of retirement. In contrast, entry-level workers – those aged 16 to 24 years – are projected to decline almost 14 percent from 2010 to 2030. Likewise, the 25- to 44-year old age group is expected to fall, though not as fast as in the past decade. The Baby Boom generation is expected to cause a -23.4 percent drop in the number of workers aged 45 to 64 years, but a 70.8 percent jump in the number of workers aged 65 years and over. About 5 percent of the labor force was 65 years and over in 2010; nearly 9.5 percent may be senior citizens by 2030. See Table 2-5.