by Rachel Vilsack

Whether you take advantage of a campground near one of our 10,000 lakes, stay at a bed and breakfast in Duluth, dine in a four-star restaurant in Minneapolis, or visit a casino, the leisure and hospitality industry is big business in Minnesota. This sector enjoys $10.5 billion in annual sales and generates 15 percent of Minnesota’s tax revenue.The industry also accounts for one in every 10 private sectors workers in Minnesota.


The leisure and hospitality industry consists of two sectors:



The arts, entertainment, and recreation sector is a distinguishing industry in Minnesota. The Twin Cities region often ranks among the largest U.S. metro areas in recreational opportunities, professional sports, amusement parks, and performing arts venues. The region is also home to all five major league sports teams, including the Lynx (WNBA), Timberwolves (NBA), Twins (MLB), Vikings (NFL), and Wild (NHL).


Industry Recovers

The leisure and hospitality sector weathered the recession better than average. Whereas total employment in the Minnesota decreased by five percent, or 119,000 jobs, the leisure and hospitality sector declined by four percent, or 10,300 jobs, between 2008 and 2010. As of September 2011, employment in the sector has increased by 6,700 jobs this year in Minnesota.


The number of opportunities for jobseekers is also expanding in the leisure and hospitality industry. There were over 8,000 vacancies recorded during the second quarter of 2011, representing more openings than the previous two years.


Where the Jobs Are

There are many hospitality careers, covering a wide range of education and skill levels. The top 15 jobs in Minnesota, ranked by employment, in this sector are:


  • Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
  • Waiters and waitresses
  • Cooks, restaurant
  • First-line supervisors/managers of food preparation and serving workers
  • Maids and housekeeping cleaners
  • Cooks, fast food
  • Bartenders
  • Drivers/sales workers
  • Dishwashers
  • Food service managers
  • Food preparation workers
  • Hosts and hostesses
  • Dining room and cafeteria attendants
  • Amusement and recreation attendants
  • Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks


Leisure and hospitality jobs are largely concentrated in food service occupations. Excluding the supervisory and managerial occupations, many of the jobs in this sector offer entry-level, part-time, and seasonal opportunities for youth or new labor market entrants. Skills common to the leisure and hospitality sector include communication and customer service.Individuals interested in careers in this sector must also be prepared to work long or variable shifts and be available during the weekends and major holidays.


Industry Businesses Go Green

Many hospitality companies are also interested in greening their businesses to reduce their environmental impact or energy use. Some eating establishments recycle their used cooking oil for biodiesel production or compost food waste. And large performing arts and sporting venues use biodegradable dishes and utensils and offer guest more recycling and composting stations throughout their venue.


Future Industry Growth

The amount of money consumers spend on dining out, sporting events, or cultural events depends on economic conditions, so the strength of the economy will largely determine future employment growth in the leisure and hospitality sector. However, the industry is projected to expand in Minnesota by 8.9 percent, or 14,400 new jobs, between 2009 and 2019 — compared to the state’s average for all industries of 8.7 percent.


Overall, job seekers will continue to find ample job opportunities in the leisure and hospitality industry. And individuals with a dedication to customer service will find a host of willing employers.


Rachel Vilsack ( is the Coordinator of Special Projects for Minnesota’s Labor Market Information Office at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.