Revised data released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) indicate St. Cloud area employment declined 6.5 percent over the twelve months ending January 2021. Area employment was 7,097 lower than one year earlier as the local recession continues into its second year. The pandemic has adversely affected nearly all local sectors—only the local construction center has experienced job growth over the past year. Ninety percent of the impact was felt in approximately one-half of area employment. For example, employment in the local leisure & hospitality sector was one-third lower over the past twelve months and the manufacturing sector shed 10 percent of its jobs over the same period.
The St. Cloud Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.8% in the recent period as the local economy is expected to improve from the weak numbers that have been seen since the onset of recession. Current business activity at surveyed firms was also improved as economic performance continued to rebound from historic weakness three months ago. 55 percent of surveyed firms report an increase in business activity over the past three months and only 15 percent of firms experienced a decrease in activity over the past quarter. The future outlook of surveyed firms is also improved as local companies expect better business conditions over the next six months.
In special questions, business leaders express concern about the unfavorable impact that the new administration’s health care, regulatory, tax, trade, and immigration policies will have on their firm. Surveyed firms are less certain about the impact of the Biden administration’s infrastructure spending plans. In this quarter’s other special question, 42.4 percent of surveyed firms are strongly opposed to a potential ½-cent increase in the local sales tax in St. Cloud and Waite Park. Another 9.1 percent of firms are somewhat opposed to a sales tax hike, while 21.2 percent of firms are neutral. 15.2 percent of firms somewhat favor a local sales tax extension.
Banaian, King and MacDonald, Richard, "St. Cloud Area Quarterly Business Report, Vol. 23, No. 1" (2021). St. Cloud Area Quarterly Business Report. 89.