February 2022 Employment Figures – Employment & Jobs Rise

Preliminary figures for February were released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between January & February, Greater Mankato saw employment growth of 900 to a post-pandemic high of 60,194. Jobs (total nonfarm payroll) increased by 700 to 56,000. In short, the difference between jobs and employment is that the jobs number counts the number of paychecks being issued in Greater Mankato and employment counts the number of people who live in Mankato who work. A deeper explanation of the difference between these two statistics and why the number of jobs is less than employment can be found at the end of the January employment figure report.

Unemployment decreased by 342 and the labor force grew by 558. The growth in employment and labor force comes on top of January numbers that have been adjusted up by 200 since they were released last month.

The employment numbers in our region and the jobs numbers in our region paint two very different pictures of the talent shortage. Employment is at its highest point since the beginning of the pandemic and is down by less than 400 compared to February 2020. This tells us that the vast majority of people in our region have returned to work in some form. In contrast, jobs are down by 2,800 compared to February 2020. This helps explain why there are so many businesses short workers despite the labor force return in Greater Mankato. There are a number of possible reasons for this difference:

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January 2022 Employment Figures – Employment Rises While Total Jobs Worked Falls

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released preliminary January data for their Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) and Current Employment Statistics (CES) reports. In these reports, we saw that the number of employed individuals living in the Mankato-North Mankato MSA rose by 366 while the number of jobs being worked (total nonfarm payroll) in our region dropped by 900 (information on the difference between employed individuals & jobs data can be found at the end of this blog post).

The number of non-farm jobs being worked in our region dropped from 56,300 in December 2021 to 55,400 in January 2022, a 1.6% decrease. In contrast, the number of employed individuals rose from 58,716 to 59,082 over the same period, a 0.6% increase. Individuals entering the labor force rose by an even higher 1.1% (688) people. Between December 2021 and January 2022, the labor force rose from 60,050 to 60,638 – its highest point since November 2020.

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Legislative Update – March 2022

The legislature is off and running full steam ahead! This the second year of the 2-year (biennial) legislative session. There are several themes that have been consuming the discussion early on: budget surplus, bonding, unemployment insurance trust fund, redistricting, and COVID closures. Here is a brief update on each area.

Budget Surplus

In 2021, the state passed a 2-year budget of $52 billion, a record level of spending. A key part of our budget is revenue, how much the state collects in taxes, fees, federal funds, etc. The state uses a forecasting model to try and make an educated guess of how much money will be collected (and spent) during the biennium. The state then updates their projections throughout the year with periodic “budget forecasts,” which update the revenue and expense projections. In November 2021, the state projected a budget surplus of $7.7 billion. As of Monday February 28th (the “February forecast”), that budget surplus jumped to $9.3 billion. The legislature does not technically need to do anything, they already passed a budget in 2021. However, ideas range from giving it back in the form of rebate checks, reducing taxes, or spending on new or existing programs. Governor Walz has proposed nearly tripling proposed rebate checks (“Walz Checks”) to $500 and $1,000 for qualifying individuals and couples. Senate Republicans have proposed permanently reducing the first tier individual income tax rate from 5.3% to 2.8% and eliminating income tax on social security income. House Speaker Melissa Hortman and DFL leaders have been cautious and suggested putting more in reserves while also providing unspecified support for families who continue to struggle through the pandemic.

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Feeling Anxious?

If you answered “Yes!” to that question, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of the majority.

Rates of anxiety and depression among U.S. adults were about 4 times higher between April 2020 and August 2021 than they were in 2019. Some of the sharpest increases were among males, Asian Americans, young adults, and parents with children in the home, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even without a pandemic, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million of adults in the United States age 18 and older. Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

Anxiety, in short, is a disconnect between your mind and body. Your mind is worrying about something in the past or future (like an exam). Your body, however, does not have the capability to recognize past or future; it can only live in the here and now. This causes your body to have a set of physical reactions as it is preparing to fight, run, or freeze.

Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. It is healthy for the mind and body to experience some anxiety. However, anxiety becomes a more serious issue when it begins to interfere with your daily life, becomes excessive, is unmanageable, or leads to panic attacks. Professionally speaking, you could be diagnosed with anxiety if you experience symptoms for six consecutive weeks. Instead of waiting for those weeks to pass, you can take steps to reduce your anxiety now.

Here are some useful (and maybe even a little goofy) scientifically supported techniques you can use when you’re experiencing anxiety.

1. Give your mind a name. If you give your mind a name, it makes it easier to disagree with and move on to a more helpful thought. The average human has 60,000-80,000 thoughts every day. That’s a ton! How many of those thoughts are actually useful for you? Maybe a small handful each day? Do yourself a favor and name your mind. Mine is named Jeff. We are friends. Jeff gives me quite a few strange thoughts, but I can respectfully disagree with him.

2. Go to your “one-stop” shopping store. Well, you don’t have to physically go there, but imagine that your mind is like that store where there are tons of items. (Your items are your thoughts.)  Some items in the store are useful. Some are worthless to you. Some you never even knew existed! Do you go into the store planning to buy everything in the store? No way! Your mind works the same way. As you are shopping around the aisles of your thoughts, you get to choose what you buy and what you leave on the shelf!

3. Repeat it. Created by psychologist Edward Titchener, this little trick shows people how a word loses its meaning when repeated over and over and over. If you want to give it a try, take the word “milk.” Take a moment and think of a nice, cold glass of milk. Then repeat the word “milk” out loud for 30 seconds. You’ll notice that it starts to lose meaning and just becomes a weird sound that’s hard to say. Try doing 30 seconds of “failure” or “loser” or “ugly” the next time a thought like that causes you anxiety or pain.

4. Sing the thought or say it in a funny voice. I suggest using “Happy Birthday” as the melody to that anxious thought you’re experiencing, and maybe your favorite cartoon character’s voice. I know, I know, it sounds strange. I promise you, though, this is based on hundreds of scientific studies!

These are just a handful of skills that are a portion of Cognitive Defusion. Defusion is part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which was created and researched by Dr. Steven Hayes. I hope they are helpful for you!

To learn more about Cognitive Defusion, you can watch Dr. Hayes speak about it during his TedTalk.

2022 Policy Priorities

The Greater Mankato Growth board of directors recently adopted the 2022 Policy Priorities. A key area of focus at Greater Mankato Growths is “Advocacy of the Marketplace”. As such, GMG adopts a set of policy priorities annually. These priorities represent important issues that we focus on throughout the year. We work with elected officials at all levels of government to ensure that policies are enacted that are pro-business and help our regional economy grow.

These priorities are the result of numerous points of input. We conducted a policy survey in October 2021, hosted the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in Mankato for a small-group discussion, and our Public Affairs Steering Committee meets monthly with leaders from nearly all industry sectors represented.

In 2022, our policy priorities include the following focus areas:

Economic and Workforce Development

Tax Competitiveness

Strategic Investments

Healthcare

Childcare

Support Partner Organization

To view the full details of our 2022 Policy Priorities, click the image below or visit our Advocacy webpage.

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Growing Area Talent Through High School Youth

Mankato Area Public Schools (MAPS) is increasing career pathway exploration by encouraging students to participate in Work-Based Learning opportunities. All high school youth are eligible to participate in activities to explore and refine skills through this unique form of learning outside the classroom. We are excited that so many local businesses have opened their doors to help youth discover and explore their futures! Our options in work-based learning provide “layered learning” for students who need additional experiences to help shape their decisions. Some of these options are listed below; additionally, employers can choose from an array of 12 partnership opportunities by completing this survey:

Individualized Career Exploration Experiences

MAPS students are encouraged to participate in exploration opportunities before extended work-based learning. Below are some of the unique ways that employers can showcase their careers and companies:

Job Shadows

A traditional 1:1 shadowing experience exploring a specific career. Students provide their own transportation.

Career Interviews

A virtual shadowing experience for 1-3 students in a career field.

Career Forums

Employers visit the high school site to share information with a small group of students (2-10) who have identified a specific career pathway of interest.

Lunch & Learns

Targeted group of students who visit multiple industries and post-secondary instiutions throughout the year to learn about career fields and programming.

Mini Site Tours

Small groups of students (2-7) who have identified an area of interest tour a company to learn more.

Note: Other exploration opportunities for students include Classroom Speakers and Classroom Field Trips

Work Experience

MAPS believes that work empowers students to build career skills (soft skills) and knowledge to be quality employees and citizens. Students earn credits for their employment. Students are required to take a Career Planning course prior or in conjunction with their work. This is available for any student in grades 9-12.

Career Internship

A Career Internship is a paid or unpaid experience taking a deeper dive into a student’s area of interest. Students earn high school credits through this model by taking career pathway coursework and then applying that skill and knowledge at a worksite helping them gain skills and experiences. An example of a career internship is our partnership with Mayo Clinic Health System. Mayo Clinic Health System Explorers are students who take a full semester to learn about a wide variety of healthcare careers by working in several departments in the Mankato Mayo Clinic Health System facility. From nursing to pharmacy, lab tech to information technology, students are seeing how their talents and interests can be applied almost anywhere. Students attend weekly seminars at the school to build their resumes and portfolios.

YOUTH APPRENTICESHIPS

These full-year or multi-year opportunities are for students who are highly motivated to work in a field. Currently, our youth apprenticeship programs are in Advanced Manufacturing. An example is our YEAP partnership (Youth Employment Acceleration Program). Students work for up to 2 years at a company, learning the various roles and responsibilities within the organization. MTU Onsite Energy, EI Microcircuits, Kato Cable, and Lindsay Window and Door are YEAP partners providing opportunities for students to take a direct hands-on approach to learning about the field of advanced manufacturing.

Last year–even with COVID–approximately 250 students participated in a work-based learning experience in the district. This number will likely grow as students move toward taking their learning in new directions and businesses continue to look for talent and consider why training the youngest of employees can benefit their organization. Through these experiences, students are developing a network of support that can help them long after they graduate. Students taking advantage of any of the work-based learning options are building their personal toolkit to be career, college, and life ready. 

Thank you for your interest in learning more about partnership opportunities at MAPS, and again, if you are interested in partnering with MAPS, please complete the survey below.

New COVID-19 Guidelines for Keeping Employees Safe

FAQ on New COVID-19 Guidelines:

Here are our answers to the most frequent questions on the new COVID-19 guidelines and keeping your workers safe. Our goal is to keep your employees out of the clinic and hospital if it’s not necessary.

Q: When employees have COVID-19 symptoms, what should they do?
A: They should get tested at a local testing site. Here are some testing options. While waiting for results and after testing positive, they should stay home and isolate from their families as best they can. Treat mild symptoms at home with over-the-counter medication. Stay hydrated. If they have shortness of breath or worsening symptoms that cannot be managed at home, seek medical care by calling your clinic.

Q: Do employers need to require a doctor’s note from employees in order to return to work?
A: No. Please do not require employees to get a doctor’s note to return to work due to the volume of patients being seen at the clinic. A medical visit and note are not necessary to return to work and providers and staff are working to care for those who are very ill.

Q: When employees test positive on an at-home test, is it really positive or do they need to be tested again at the clinic?
A: If someone tests positive on a home COVID test, they do not need to get retested in a medical facility.  A positive home test means they have COVID.

Q: If you have a COVID-positive employee who is feeling better after 5 days, can the employee return to work on day 6?
A: Yes, if symptoms are resolving and they remain fever-free without medication for 24 hours. If they feel better, they can return beginning on day 6 and any day after. Remember, the day symptoms begin is day zero. If symptoms persist after 5 days, your employee should stay home until symptoms resolve, or at least 10 days, whichever is shorter. For example, if symptoms resolve on day 7, they can return on on day 8. When your employee returns to work they should be masked (level 2 if possible) until day 10. If their symptoms are not resolving, they may be out for the full 10 days and no doctor note is needed.

CDC Guidance
Click here for CDC recommendations on quarantine and isolation. The chart is easy-to-read and answers many questions on when to test, what’s a close contact, and how to calculate quarantine and isolation periods.


OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard

This morning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) filed a hotly-anticipated Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) related to COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and face coverings in the workplace. This follows an announcement by President Biden on September 9, 2021, directing OSHA to develop a rule to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Details are posted on the OSHA website, but here are some of the key highlights:

  • ETS is effective immediately, as of 11/5/2021.
  • Employers must comply with all requirements, except testing, within 30 days. Testing compliance within 60 days.
  • ETS applies to employers with 100 or more employees. In Minnesota, along with other states with an OSHA approved State Plan, the ETS applies to public sector workers employed by state and local governments, including educators and school staff.
  • Employers must determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain proof of vaccination status, and maintain records.
  • Require employees to notify the employer of a positive COVID test or diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated must be tested at least weekly if the employee is in the workplace at least one day a week.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated must wear a face covering when indoors or in a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
  • ETS does not require employers to pay for testing or face coverings. Employers may assume costs if they so choose.
  • ETS does not apply to 100% remote employees or employees who work exclusively outdoors.
  • Requires employers to provide up to four hours of paid time to receive each vaccination dose, and reasonable time and paid sick leave to recover from side effects experiencing following each dose.

Greater Mankato Growth staff is continuing to monitor this announcement. We will provide additional details and resources as they become available.

Podcast: Heartless Hackers Demanding GIft cards

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the importance of cybersecurity has quickly become a quintessential part of today’s business strategy. More than 50% of businesses have been the victim of a cyberattack, and as many as 60% of those hacked businesses end up going out of business.

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The Five Stages of Cybersecurity Prevention 

Cyberattacks can cost organizations millions of dollars and 2021 has seen the highest average data breach cost in the last 17 years. While it’s almost inevitable that you’ll someday deal with a cyberattack on some level, organizations who formed incident response teams and tested their incident response plans were able to reduce the cost of a breach by almost 40%.

With the broad nature of cybersecurity and a lot of ground to cover, many companies don’t even know where to begin. Luckily, a comprehensive, in-depth cybersecurity action plan can be broken down into five stages: Foundational Security, Policies and Awareness, Key Processes, Incident Preparedness and Security Monitoring. While each has their own unique benefits, a true culture of security relies on each stage working together for peak efficiency and protection.

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