T Paw's Alternate Universe

In his hour-long appearance on Minnestoa Public Radio's Mid-Morning show today, Governor Tim Pawlenty displayed two of the gifts that make him an effective politician: a relaxed, confident manner and a wonkish capacity to marshall statistics that bolster his arguments. But in sparring with host Kerri Miller on the health of the state economy, Pawlenty unleashed one fairly spectacular whopper. Citing the growing number of employment vacancies in the state, the governor declared, "Basically, everyone who wants a job can have a job."

That rosy assertion does not mesh with a recent study from Pawlenty's own Department of Employment and Economic Development. According to the report: "During fourth quarter 2005, we estimate that there were 5.8 job vacancies for every 10.0 unemployed people statewide." Even assuming that the unemployed workers skills mesh with those vacancies, that leaves a considerable chunk of people idle. And then consider that 39 percent of the vacancies are for part-time work and, further, that the median wage for vacant jobs is only ten dollars an hour. Suddenly, not such a pretty picture.

"I don't recognize the governor as a friend of Minnesota workers but I thought he'd be more careful than that," says Kevin Ristau, education director of the St. Paul-based Jobs Now Coalition. As Ristau sees it, any thoughtful analysis of the state's employment picture ought to also take into account wage trends. By that measure, Minnesota seems to be getting steadily worse.

One telling indicator: the increase in per capita income growth. In 2005, Minnesotans' income increased by 3.3 percent, which placed the state 46th among the 50 states. In 1998, by contrast, Minnesota ranked second. "I would guess that difference probably represents the most serious decline of any state in the union," says Ristau. "It's pretty alarming stuff and it flies in the face of the happy talk the governor is trying to peddle."

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