Minnesota men in their prime working-age years were less likely to be in the work force in 2000 than in 1990, according to a new report from Minnesota Planning. The fall in participation occurred despite Minnesota’s low unemployment rate and a high demand for labor in the late 1990s. U.S. census data show that in 1990, 93.9 percent of Minnesota men age 25 to 54 were working or looking for work. By 2000 this declined to 91.3 percent. “This fall in men’s participation is a national trend,” said State Demographer Tom Gillaspy. The national labor force participation rate for men 25 to 54 fell even more, from 91.4 percent in 1990 to 85.6 percent in 2000. In Minnesota, the decline in men’s participation was offset by a growing population, in-migration from other states and countries and rising participation among women. Overall, the number of Minnesotans in the labor force rose from 2,314,975 in 1990 to 2,691,709 in 2000, an increase of 16 percent. Gillaspy said economists and labor force specialists are still investigating the reasons for falling male participation. The most common explanation is that many men with less education and fewer job skills are withdrawing from the labor force. More people, both men and women, are relying on disability benefits. Rates of incarceration have increased. Though some writers have speculated that more men have become homemakers or have been able to retire early because of gains from investments, Gillaspy said most of the growth in the non-working male population appears to be among those with lower earning potential. “If the participation rate for men continues to fall, it will affect our future labor force growth, and that will have a negative impact on economic growth and tax revenues.” Minnesota continues to have some of the highest rates of labor force participation in the nation, ranking first for women, fourth for men and second overall. Women’s participation continued its longterm rise, but gains were less dramatic than in previous decades. In 2000, 66.0 percent of Minnesota women were working or looking for work, up from 62.5 percent in 1990 and 54.0 percent in 1980. Gillaspy said that the falling participation rate for men and the slowing in gains for women highlight some major challenges that state will face in coming years. “People aren’t talking as much about tight labor markets now that the economy is in a slump, but as soon as things get going it’s likely to become a big issue again. If participation rates stagnate and people stop moving into Minnesota, there could be a growing imbalance between supply and demand for labor.” The report, Minnesota Labor Force Trends: 1990-2000, is available online at www.mnplan.state.us.