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One of the most in-demand jobs in Minnesota is in health care. Specifically, one of the lowest paid jobs in health care.

Minnesota is expected to add 23,000 personal health care aide jobs between 2016 and 2026, more than in any other field.

What’s the job of the future?

Coder? Robotics engineer? Mars-shuttle pilot?

If you’re looking at the job field that’s expected to grow the most in Minnesota in the next 10 years, the answer is a bit more down to earth: personal health care aides. Minnesota is expected to add 23,000 personal health care aide jobs between 2016 and 2026, more than in any other specific job field, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

That boom in employment is being driven by an aging population and changes in late-in-life care away from nursing home facilities and toward assisted living and remaining at home but with help.

If 23,000 new jobs in the next decade sound like a good thing, there’s a pretty important caveat to consider: The pay for personal care aides is very low, averaging just $12 per hour.

An aging population

Economists project an explosion in personal care and other health-related jobs in the coming years for one big reason: aging baby boomers.

The generation of Americans born post-World War II is a big one. Today, the oldest baby boomers are in their mid-70s, while the youngest are in their mid-50s. And as more of these Minnesotans start reaching retirement age they are expected to require more medical services.

In the future, Minnesota’s population will be, on the whole, older. It’s already starting: For the first time ever in 2020, Minnesota is expected to have more adults over the age of 65 than children in ages 5 through 17. By 2030, the share of adults over age 65 in Minnesota is expected to reach 21 percent, up from 16 percent in 2016.

As a result of these population shifts, health care is expected to add lots of jobs in the coming decade.

And the biggest portion of those added jobs are expected be personal care aides. These are people who make a living by helping those who are aging or need accessibility accommodations with the tasks of daily living. That might include bathing, helping with cleaning, cooking, organizing appointments and helping clients with mobility.

Becoming a personal care aide does not require a high school diploma. Aides are required to pass a test and background check and enroll with the state.

A large share of people working in the industry in Minnesota — and the U.S. — are immigrants, and many personal care and home health agencies are immigrant-owned.

At a median pay of about $12 an hour, people working these jobs do not make enough money to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota, or pay the mortgage on a median value home, according to analysis by the Minnesota Housing Partnership.

A booming industry

In 2016, Minnesota had an estimated 68,000 people employed as personal care aides. By 2026, it’s expected to have more than 91,000, adding more jobs than any other specific industry.

The growth in personal care aides is one part of more general growth in the senior living industry, said Lynn Blewett, a professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

Life expectancy is up, which means more people are living longer with chronic conditions that require medical care. But because nursing homes are expensive, lots of people would rather age at home or live in senior communities that provide some services, but less than a full-scale nursing home.

In Minnesota, assisted living facilities aren’t licensed (though some regulations are currently being considered at the Legislature). Their numbers have exploded in recent years. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of jobs in senior living communities in Minnesota increased by 72 percent, according to a report by Argentum, a senior living association.

And as the number of senior living facilities expands, so does the number of people working in them.

Other growth areas

Aside from being the fastest-growing individual Minnesota job sector, personal care aides are in a broad category of jobs — personal care and service — expected to grow the fastest in the next decade.

This category includes everything from restaurant servers to child care workers to concierges to manicurists and pedicurists.

As for the other industries where Minnesota’s expected to add the most jobs?

Jobs in health care make up six of the top 10. Food and beverage service workers, business operations specialists and construction trades workers are also projected to show strong growth.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Michael Ofjord on 04/02/2019 - 01:29 pm.

    Minnesota, if it wants to lead, is going to need to increase the wages, have some standards to ensure that the vulnerable population has good care, increase the education needed to get into the field and also offer continuing education. The less than stellar pay in this field, which has lasted basically forever, is not a good sign of what our true feelings are about seniors and the vulnerable population.

    • Submitted by lisa miller on 04/02/2019 - 06:38 pm.

      However asking people to pay for more training without significant wage increases is an issue. I know many PCA’s who are on govt healthcare(if they are on healthcare) and we also need to recognize this wage increase then raises the cost of care. Most Americans incorrectly think Medicare pays for this, it does not pay for personal care. Even the middle class and upper middle class struggle long term to pay for care. It’s part of the healthcare crisis. I would like to see what some of these companies reap in profit wise.

  2. Submitted by John Hoffman on 04/07/2019 - 06:58 am.

    God Bless the caregivers. A truly noble profession.

  3. Submitted by John Crea on 04/07/2019 - 08:15 am.

    Where will we find workers to fill those 23,000 personal health care aide positions? Here’s an idea. Establish training programs, like those set up to retrain displaced factory workers, for all the workers in the health insurance industry who will be losing their jobs when we move to a more-enlightened system of singe-payer health care. The retraining is necessary because we have to get these workers into a mindset of care-giving instead of care-denying.

    • Submitted by Miriam Segall on 04/15/2019 - 07:35 pm.

      Just moving to single-payer health care may get rid of some of the administrative bloat, but it is not in itself going to reform our wildly overpriced and dysfunctional so-called “health care” system (which is a whole ‘nother essay). Really reining in the costs of our medical-industrial complex is going to take a lot more than just going to single-payer. I agree that it is essential to upgrade home health care both in terms of professional training and status and of pay, but who is going to pay for it? Most of the people who need home health care on a long-term basis are not going to be able to pay for it out of their own pockets. Aging-in-place or aging-at-home sounds very appealing and I’m sure that’s what most people would like to do, but do we need to re-think that whole idea? Do we need to start thinking in terms of cooperative living, something short of assisted living (which we do badly enough as it is), but arrangements that will maximize the availability of the personnel that we can get? And frankly, I’m not sure I want to be “cared” for by some ex-insurance company clerk who lost his or her job. Home health aide can be a physically demanding and emotionally draining job, just like nursing, and shouldn’t be a last resort.

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