Itasca County, Northland face continued economic challenges

Creating jobs and generating economic development have been on the minds of many public officials in northeastern Minnesota, and a recent look at a Minnesota demography database reveals that economic conditions in this region remain challenging, despite efforts to create more jobs. 

“The population in Itasca County is growing more than what we see in many neighboring counties,” explained Ed Zabinski, GRSB senior vice president. “However, when you peel back another layer of the information ‘onion,’ you see that we’re getting older.  People aged 65 and older comprise 21% of Itasca County’s population, and that age group grew by 30% in the past five years.  At the other end of the age spectrum—ages 0 to 19—that group actually declined by 11.5%.  Balancing this all out are people of ‘working age,’ 20 to 64, which represents more than half of the county population.  That group grew 3.2%. 

“The data is what it is,” Zabinski continued.  “We have a solid, growing group of people who are able to work, so that’s good news for employers.  The challenge for business leaders and public policy makers is to create an environment where job growth can occur so we can employ people and help drive down the rate of poverty in this region.”

The median household income in Itasca County declined slightly in the past five years, which is generally believed to be linked to the growing number of older residents who are not in the work force and depend on transfer payments such as Social Security, pensions or employment-related savings plans. 

* Northland includes Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Lake, Koochiching, & St. Louis Counties.​

A snapshot of northeastern Minnesota demographics:


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