Although, Minnesota's job market has been engulfed in gloom for more than two years, we found a bright spot. Demand for people who can repair high-end mechanical watches is high, and graduates of a small watchmaking program in St. Paul tell job-hunting stories that would make a dot-comer nostalgic.
As the spring and summer storm season approaches, the number of Minnesotans who have lost their homeowners insurance has soared, along with premiums. More state residents have to rely on a safety-net insurance program created by the state.
State regulators blasted Xcel energy officials over an auditor's preliminary conclusion that the company's outage reporting system is 'corrupt.' The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission also expressed concern that employees of the Minneapolis based utility are reluctant to speak to the auditors, for fear of reprisal. The PUC voted to continue the investigation and required Xcel to encourage employees to come forward.
In selling his no-tax-increase budget plan, Gov. Tim Pawlenty often points out that Minnesota's tax burden is higher than other states in the region. But despite the higher taxes, Minnesota also has been more prosperous than those states. Some experts say Minnesota's use of tax dollars has strengthened the state's economy. Others question whether that's still the case.
Eagan-based Northwest Airlines is taking heat from laid-off workers, union leaders and even Gov. Tim Pawlenty over executive pay increases. Last week, Northwest announced it was cutting nearly 5,000 jobs due to the war in Iraq. Less than a week later, the company disclosed its two top executives saw pay increases last year totalling nearly $2 million, a year the company lost almost $800 million.
Eagan-based Northwest airlines is launching a campaign to convince union leaders of the need to reduce labor costs. Company officials have told Wall Street they need to cut overall expenses by as much as $1.5 billion. Northwest has already cut almost 12,000 jobs and more than $1 billion in expenses in about two years. But labor leaders at the nation's fourth largest airline say the last round of concessions has bred strong resistance to another round of givebacks.
State regulators have ordered Qwest Communications to give competitors discounts or pay a fine of $26 million. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission action stems from illegal secret deals in which Qwest gave some competitors preferential rates for the use of its phone lines. Qwest officials say the PUC overstepped its authority, but the company's critics hailed the decision.
Job vacancies in Minnesota continued to decline in the last three months of last year. The number of job openings fell by almost one third from the year before. Two years ago, before the recession, the survey found there were more jobs than people looking for work in Minnesota. Now there are twice as many job hunters as jobs.
The latest economic data for Minnesota indicate the state's job market is stuck in neutral. Minnesota's unemployment rate for November came in at 3.9 percent. That's down slightly from October. A separate survey of businesses indicates Minnesota companies are reluctant to start hiring even though many expect sales to pick up.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is projecting fewer jobs and higher unemployment in Minnesota amid modest regional and national economic growth next year. The outlook for the Fed's ninth district and the U.S. is based on both a statistical analysis and a survey of business leaders in the region. But a top official at the Minneapolis Fed says Minnesota may do better than the forecast.
Experts say the expected bankruptcy of United Airlines will likely put downward pressure on wages at Twin Cities-based Northwest Airlines. Northwest has one of the state's largest payrolls, with nearly 20,000 employees.
Retail sales got off to a strong start over the weekend nationally and in Minnesota. The results from the traditional start of the holiday shopping season trumped projections of lackluster sales. But skeptics say it's too soon to predict consumers will leave their caution in the parking lot.
With the traditional start of the holiday shopping season underway, retailers are girding for a tough year. This list of reasons includes layoffs, little hiring, sluggish economic growth, and the prospect of war in Iraq.
Minnesota's high-paying manufacturing sector created nearly 50,000 jobs during the 1990s, but now most of them are gone. From 1991 to 2000 the number of manufacturing jobs in Minnesota grew 12 percent, and helped fuel a big jump in the state's prosperity. Nationally, manufacturing was virtually stagnant over the same period. But the recession and its aftermath have wiped 80 percent of the jobs Minnesota gained.
Northwest Airlines is closing its Atlanta aircraft maintenance facility to cut costs. The company is transferring the work to the Twin Cities.