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Established in 1856, Morrison County proclaims itself to be the gateway to Minnesota’s northern cabin country. With 1,125 square miles Morrison County is the 17th largest county in the state. The county was home to Charles Lindbergh, who lived in Little Falls for 20 years before going on to complete the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight. The recently discovered remains of Ft. Duquesne, a former French fur trading outpost, is situated along the Mississippi River just north of Little Falls. The county is also home to Camp Ripley, a 54,000 acre year-round training facility used by the National Guard, United States Army Reserve, and other active military units across the entire United States and Norway.1
Despite a slow but steady population growth trend (38th fastest of 87 counties) since 2000, the county’s population is expected to stagnate and decline 0.6 percent through 2040. This nearly stable population projection creates a negative labor force projection to 2030, mainly caused by the further aging of an already older-than-typical labor force. However, since the county benefits from being the gateway to Minnesota’s northern recreation hotspots, it could be positioned to take advantage of an increasing number of retirees commuting to vacation homes in the region.
Although the county has consistently added residents over the last 15 years, the labor force had 500 fewer workers in 2017 than the peak in 2011. The tightening labor force combined with an expanding economy to create a decreasing unemployment rate, averaging 5.5 percent in 2017.
Employment levels, however, have been inconsistent. Despite some positive growth years in 2008, 2011, and again in 2015 and 2016, the 10,899 jobs posted in 2016 are fewer than what was reported a decade prior. The largest industry in the county is the Education and Health Services sector with 2,400 jobs at 108 establishments. The industry gained jobs throughout the recession but then lost jobs from 2011 to 2014. The second largest industry, Trade, Transportation, and Utilities, remains well below the prerecession high of 2,556 jobs. However, in spite of the last recession, Retail Trade employment has been relatively stable and remains just 87 jobs short of the previous peak in 2008. The third largest industry was Leisure and Hospitality with 1,202 jobs in the third quarter of 2017. Although job levels have fluctuated since 2000, the last two years are trending upwards.