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Minnesota Tourism Industry Pays Pretty Well; Most Bar/Restaurant Workers Clearing $15/Hour

The Minneapolis Fed, with help from the Minnesota state tourism office and the state’s hotel lobbying group, surveyed over 300 tourism businesses in late August and found two thirds reporting that their customer counts and revenue had returned to or exceeded pre-coronavirus levels. Still, 37.9% of survey respondents said this summer’s visitors still didn’t beat pre-pandemic levels, while 34.9% said they made less money this summer than back in the before times.

The Fed also asked what those tourism jobs paid this summer. Across Minnesota, four out of five workers at hotels, campgrounds, and tourist attractions made $15 an hour or better, including tips. More than 35% made $20 an hour or better.

Tu-Uyen Tran, "A Strong Summer for Minnesota Hospitality and Tourism Marred by Stressful Changes," Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 2022.10.05.
Tu-Uyen Tran, “A Strong Summer for Minnesota Hospitality and Tourism Marred by Stressful Changes,” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 2022.10.05.

Note that in the Twin Cities, every restaurant and bar reports paying $15 or better.

The Fed doesn’t have a comparable survey of South Dakota’s tourism-related conditions, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in May 2021, Minnesota’s median wage for food service workers was 19.3% better than South Dakota’s and its mean wage was 15.3% better. According to regional price parity data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the cost of living in Minnesota was only 7.8% higher than South Dakota’s in 2020. Thus, moving from South Dakota to Minnesota to wait tables would be a net financial gain for servers so inclined.

And most of those Minnesota bars, restaurants, and tourist attractions are hiring. The Minneapolis Fed’s September presentation on its tourism industry survey indicates that nearly 80% of respondents report moderately tight or very tight labor availability:

Ron Wirtz, "Regional Economic Conditions in the Ninth District: Tourism & Hospitality Survey," Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, webinar given 2022.09.23
Ron Wirtz, “Regional Economic Conditions in the Ninth District: Tourism & Hospitality Survey,” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, webinar given 2022.09.23.

Workers can find a lot of Help Wanted signs in South Dakota, too, but they can’t find as much paycheck or purchasing power as they can in Minnesota.


  1. CK 2022-10-14 11:27

    My salary is a little more than $43,000 before taxes as a high school teacher. If you break that down to an hourly wage, that’s almost $21/hr.
    Even if I pretend that I don’t do anything in my teaching profession during the summer (Such as taking credits for certificate renewal or working on my curriculum or classroom for the next school year), that’s only about $27/hour.

    Given how many hats I have to wear on any given day, that’s just plain sad.

  2. O 2022-10-14 11:58

    CK, and what was the required investment in education to get you that position? I’m betting the wages being discussed above do not require your prerequisite investment.

  3. Jenny 2022-10-14 12:31

    If wages had kept up with the cost of living the minimum wage would be roughly 25/hr today. It is still astonishing when I hear how low teachers and registered nurses are paid in SD. Mayo Clinic just increased their wages 6 to 9% for its employees not only because of inflation but with the understanding that attractive wages are important in getting and retaining top talent.
    How much was Sanford’s wage increase this year? Or did they even have one?
    We also don’t have that demeaning food tax in MN that hurts South Dakotans. So come on over SD nurses, MNs healthcare workers are at the top in the nation for salaries.

  4. P. Aitch 2022-10-14 14:35

    The average salary for a Registered Nurse in Florida is $40.51 per hour but many make over $96K yearly.
    In the 2022 report Florida ranked 48th with the average teacher salary at $51,009.

  5. larry kurtz 2022-10-15 08:41

    Maybe related: New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham got a ‘B’ and Mrs. Noem only got a ‘C’ but Gov. Tim Walz got an ‘F’ and the ugliest governor in the US, Pete Ricketts got an ‘A’ from CATO in their fiscal policy report card.

  6. CK 2022-10-15 16:07

    Exactly O. And the fact that I have to pay for recertification.

  7. Guy 2022-10-17 23:38

    Listen to the song, “Subdivisions” by Rush. It describes our capitalist society to a tee. We work on the clock to make ends meet, especially in South Dakota.
    Workers are falling further behind as the cost of living, especially in real estate, dramatically rises here in South Dakota. Workers are caught like a hamster spinning in a continuous wheel. “Some will sell their dreams for small desires or lose the race to rats, get caught in ticking traps…and start to dream of somewhere to relax their restless flight”. Does not sound like “Freedom” to me that Kristi tries to sell on a daily basis.

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