State's jobless rate rises againby Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota's unemployment rate in August rose to its highest level since 1985. The state's jobless rate of 6.2 percent is higher than the national average. Minnesota's employers cut 3,100 jobs last month, but some industries were adding employees.
St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota's monthly jobless rate has topped the U.S. average only six times in history, all in the past year and a half.
Labor market analyst Oriane Casale, of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development or DEED, said a couple issues are haunting the state's job scene.
First off, companies aren't hiring much. And second, there are a lot of laid off workers and first time job hunters looking for work.
"What we're seeing based on the number of job vacancies compared to the number of people unemployed is that this is the most difficult market for unemployed people who are looking for work since we started our job vacancy survey back in 2000," Casale said.
One of the job seekers in the month of August was Paul Tribecki. During a class break at a workforce center in Minneapolis, he said he lost his sales job in the hard hit homebuilding industry this summer.
"[I] worked with the company for 21 years," Tribecki said. "Time for a change"
Tribecki said he was trying to keep his chin up, though and hoping not to switch industries.
"I'd like to stay in the same one because of the experience I have," Tribecki said. "I'm positive, though, that as a sales person there's openings."
Construction employment, which had previously led some of the state's job losses, has actually fared better in Minnesota over the past year than it has nationally. But DEED's Oriane Casale said the numbers mask some of the pain in that industry.
"A lot of people that work in that industry just haven't been able to get reemployment, so they're not even showing up in the numbers," Casale said. "They're just out of the picture because they're not coming back into the system."
The August numbers show big losses in other industries such as professional and business services, which shed 3,700 jobs between July and August. On the other hand, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector gained 4,100 jobs.
But state economist Tom Stinson said those numbers must be viewed skeptically, too. He said this time of year, the jobs numbers can be a bit unreliable.
"Sometimes August looks really good and September looks really crummy, sometimes August looks really bad and then September looks really good," Stinson said. "It's just when do people start leaving their jobs and start heading back to school? When do college and universities start hiring? When do school districts put people on salary, on payroll for the next school year?"
Stinson said it won't be until the October jobs numbers come out that the employment picture will frame up better.
In the meantime, Stinson is concerned about the state's unemployment rate heading in the wrong direction.
"We're tracking the U.S. economy closely," Stinson said. "What's disturbing is that most people think the U.S. economy has a ways to go further in unemployment, and that means Minnesota probably does too."
Another bad sign for the Minnesota economy is that personal income in the state only expanded 1 percent between the first and second quarters of this year. Minnesota ranked nearly dead last among the states, 49th in personal income growth.
There was one improvement in today's employment report, however. Minnesota's job loss for July was scaled back from 8600 jobs to 4800.
- All Things Considered, 09/18/2008, 5:49 p.m.