Resurgent medical technology, computer science boosting STEM wages in MN


We know the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area's economy is doing reasonably well. Unemployment keeps going down. Wages are up. And it isn't just following the national economy either - it's doing better. But why?.

As it turns out, one reason for the boost has been Minnesota's high-tech sector, as the Twin Cities' STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs have seen some of the largest wage increases in the country, according to a report released yesterday by Bloomberg Rankings.

See also: Do Dayton, DFL deserve credit for MN's high rank in CNBC's Top States for Business?

Minneapolis came in 15th in the study, placing it alongside other major cities like Boston and Chicago. The metro area saw its wages shoot up by more than $4,200 since 2008, an increase of more than 15 percent from five years ago.

That, in itself, is a good sign for the Twin Cities. More income, even just for some workers, equals more money to spend. But what's so important about STEM jobs?

We've heard a lot about STEM jobs before, mostly from politicians, who tend to refer to them as the "jobs of the future" - the kinds of jobs that'll get a graduate hired and with a good-paying gig straight out of college. That's true for Minnesota, but it'd be unfair to call Minnesota's STEM jobs "future" positions, as we've been seeing them flourish in Minnesota for years.

An April 2014 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis finds that Minnesota is actually unique amongst Midwestern states for just how much it's already integrated science and technology into its economy. That's been mostly driven by the entrenched medical technology and computer science fields, which include major Minneapolis employers like Medtronic and Best Buy.

"The two big drivers, I think, are medical devices and engineering and information technology and computer hardware," says Phil Davies, the author of the Minneapolis Fed's report. In particular, Davies pointed to Minneapolis' computer science field, which he says has finally emerged from a near-decade lull.

"The supply of graduates had been depressed because of the dot-com bust, which has taken some of them out of the market," Davies says. "And I think since the recession, that industry has taken off again."

While the Twin Cities metro's growth is impressive, it's still nothing compared to the West Coast, where a big technology boom is leading to huge wage increases. Incomes for STEM workers in the Seattle area grew by almost $15,000 since 2008, while the San Francisco area saw a more than $11,000 boost.

Send your story tips to the author, Robbie Feinberg. Follow him on Twitter @robbiefeinberg.