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Just over 60% of Lonsdale’s households are in just two earning brackets, one from $50,000 to $74,999 and the other from $100,000 to $149,999. (U.S. Census Community Survey)

Understanding population growth, job trends, and the labor force is essential for Lonsdale’s Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program, which seeks to help meet the needs of the local labor force.

The BRE, which works in partnership with University of Minnesota Extension, has conducted business interviews over the past few months to figure out how to maintain businesses and help them flourish.

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the BRE leadership team met virtually with University of Minnesota Extension, and the meeting included a presentation about Lonsdale and Rice County’s population, income, and labor force trends. Data came from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, Rice County and the city of Lonsdale both saw population increases over the past several years. In 2019, the population of Rice County was 66,972. That makes it the 14th largest county in Minnesota. From 2010 to 2019, the county population grew by 4.4%, or an increase of 2,830 residents. As for Lonsdale, the population increased by 599 more residents (18%) from 2010 to 2018, totalling 3,922 residents.

Population estimates from the U.S. The Census Bureau indicates that Rice County has a younger population than Minnesota as a whole. The median age in Rice County was 36.2 years in 2019 and has just over 36% of its population below the age of 25. Statewide, about 32% of residents are under 25. Most significantly, Rice County’s residents between 15 and 24 account for 18.3% of the population where 12.7% of Minnesota’s population makes up that same age range.

The median age in Lonsdale is even younger than Rice County’s at 28.7 years. Forty-four percent of Lonsdale residents are under the age of 25, and 21% of residents are between the ages of 25 and 34.

In terms of projections, the Minnesota State Demographic Center expects Rice County’s population to decrease in the next 20 years by -2.1%, or nearly 1,400 fewer residents. However, Minnesota will likely grow by 8.8%.

From 2010 to 2018, Lonsdale has seen an increase in residents identifying as Hispanic or Latino (178), Asian (75) and of two or more races (60). There was also an increase of 33 Black or African American residents and 34 more Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. In Rice County, the Hispanic and Latino population saw the biggest increase of non-white residents with 5,222 more residents, followed by Black and African Americans with 3,523 more residents.

Survey results show that 6.7% of Lonsdale’s 25 and older population does not have a high school diploma, which is slightly higher than the state’s 6.6% but lower than Rice County’s 9.4%. However, Lonsdale has a higher percentage of residents with an associate’s degree, 17.4%, compared to Rice County’s 10.1% and the state’s 11.7%. Both Lonsdale and Rice County have smaller percentages of residents with bachelor’s and advanced degrees compared to the state.

For household income, just over 60% of Lonsdale households are in just two earning brackets: about 25% of residents earn between $50,000 to $74,999 annually, and about 35% of residents earn between $100,000 to $149,999 annually.

The presentation also included data about labor force trends in Lonsdale and Rice County, which have both seen increases since 2010. Both the city and the county saw ups and downs during that period, but overall Rice County’s labor force increased by almost 5.3%, or 1,870, and Lonsdale increased by roughly 6.5%, or 130.

According to DEED Local Area Unemployment Statistics, one of the biggest concerns in Rice County in terms of future economic growth is a shortage of workers and tight labor markets. Projections from the Minnesota State Demographic Center show Rice County’s labor force will likely decline in the next 10 years as the population ages, losing almost 1,790 workers.

The unemployment rate in Rice County is right on track with the state, or at least it was in 2019 at 3.2%. The county’s rate was higher than the state from 2004 to 2012 but slightly lower from 2013 to 2018.

Over the past few years, both Rice County and Lonsdale saw an increase in jobs. At the end of the 2019, the county had gained 2,764 jobs since 2014, and Lonsdale gained 32 jobs. Manufacturing is the largest industry in Rice County, making up 19.3% of jobs, followed by educational services at 15.2%. In Lonsdale, the largest industry sector is retail trade, making up about 20% of jobs.

DEED’s Cost of Living data indicates the average Minnesota family of two adults and one child with one full-time and one part-time worker would have a cost of living of $53,280 in Rice County, slightly below the state cost of living of $56,772. Workers in that type of family would need to earn $17.08 per hour, working 60 hours a week to meet that basic cost.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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