The Big Story Blog

Minnesotans struggle, succeed in tough job market

Posted at 3:47 PM on December 15, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Jobs and unemployment

Today's Minnesota jobless data show some bizarre contradictions: Unemployment falling and yet jobs disappearing.

Behind the data are Minnesotans who've had to navigate some of the worst job conditions in decades. We checked in with some of them via MPR's Public Insight Network. Like the official numbers we got today, the real stories of Minnesotans and jobs are a mixed bag of searches, successes and struggles.

"I have five close friends that are over 60, but still need to work, were laid-off or let go and are now unable to get hired," Susan Lane of Maplewood wrote.

I know several people that have just given up because they have been looking for more than a year and cannot get hired. Several other of my friends have taken jobs that pay significantly less, not in their field of expertise and experience because they cannot get a job in their field any longer, and are barely able to make ends meet.
Click on the map icons to read what Minnesotans told us about their search for work in this economy and what they've learned.

View How's it going in Minnesota's job market? in a full screen map

Dan Dahl of Minneapolis told us his job as a software quality analyst, initially a three month contract gig, has been extended into 2012.

"I watched the job sites and pretty much applied for everything," he said. "The tech sector appears to be making a comeback, so if there are any training funds out there I would use them to pick up some technical skills."

Howard Stolz of Howard Lake related a very different story. "I was informed last Friday that I was laid off, for the fourth time since I moved to Minnesota in 2006," he wrote. "I've had four jobs in a span of five years. I'm 59 and the list of others who were laid off (10 in all) were in their 50's or late 50's.

...Age discrimination is not supposed to be happening but in our generation where there are twice our numbers, predicted to live longer into our 90's, we're faced with the prospect of trying to stay employed.

They talk about extending the retirement age for Social Security reasons, but our main worry is that the world is retiring us in our 50's. Who is going to hire someone who is 59 years of age and highly skilled?

So I've been dyeing my hair and doing ridiculous things like that because of age discrimination. I have to change the number of years of experience on my resume so they don't guess my age while they're deciding to hire me. No one has any clue what is going on with guys like me, those highly skilled orthe poor schmos who worked in a factory with only a high school education.

We are screwed and no one is talking about this stuff.

Maybe the coolest story we heard came from Mike Nies of St Cloud. He's in construction, a business that's really collapsed to depression levels in Minnesota the past few years

Nies told us the men in his construction business had "decided as a group to work part time so we could keep everyone employed at least part time. They have also been real creative in finding new work for us as electricians. This also helped their unemployment last longer when we were only working 15 to 20 hrs per week."

Nies said the workers found part-time employment at place like McDonald's and Wal-Mart to make ends meet.

Nies added: "I cut my salary to half of journeyman wage and will keep it there until we recover."


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.