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Chaska auto shop sees booming business, but struggles with rising cost of labor

Business is booming in Minnesota, but so is cost of labor
Business is booming in Minnesota, but so is cost of labor 01:59

CHASKA, Minn. - Business is booming at Auto Pros in Chaska.

"Business has been phenomenal for us," Auto Pros owner Gary Goeman said.

But with a rising successful business, so is the cost of labor.

"We've been around a long time," Goeman said. "Nobody likes to pass on price increases. Nobody. Especially when you've been around as long as we have as a small business. But at some point, we have to in order to remain viable."

In the last year, Goeman said his cost to hire and pay workers has gone up 100%.

"This is as bad as I've seen in it in the last 30 years," he said.

According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, for every four open jobs in the state of Minnesota, there's only one person actually looking for a job.

"In a way, it's a good thing," DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said. "There's a lot of opportunity in our market. There's a tremendous set of options out there for workers. But, if you are in business and you are trying to grow your productivity and do better, you need more workers."

Despite a lack of available workforce, Minnesota sits in the top five states for labor participation - and last month, saw a record unemployment low. A new report released by DEED last month, takes a closer look at the short-term pandemic and long-term demographic impacts on labor force participation.

"You have to do something different if you wanna see those gaps move," Grove said.

Grove says the state needs to take advantage of available workers. More than 50% of Minnesota's recent labor force growth has been driven by foreign-born workers and in early October, DEED launched workforce grants for second-chance workers. Grove also wants to bring more people to the state.

"If we can create an economy here that's welcome for everybody and that works for everybody, you're going to start to see that labor shortage shrink as people choose Minnesota over other places," he said.

Goeman hopes and expects the problem to move up and down, just as supply and demand does.

"Our business growth has been limited to our availability of people and labor force," Goeman said. "But pricing has gone up and our car count has gone up dramatically. It's increasing every facet of our business."

As of August, 68.2% of Minnesotans contribute to the workforce. Before the pandemic, it was 70.8%. The national average is 62.4%.

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