Nearly all sectors saw job cuts last month in Minn.by Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
Job losses continued to tear through the state's major industries last month. Minnesota's economy lost a net 23,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate inched up to 8.2 percent. The national rate is 8.5 percent.
St. Paul, Minn. — The state shed thousands of jobs across a broad range of industries. Manufacturing dumped 6,700 jobs between February and March, the 13th straight month of losses.
The hard-hit construction industry also hemorrhaged thousands of jobs. Business and professional services contracted by 6,200 jobs and had the biggest year-over-year job losses of any major sector of the state's economy.
That's one industry Dan McElroy, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, would really like to see emerge from its slump.
"We watch it closely because it includes temporary help agencies, which are a leading economic indicator," said McElroy. "They tend to go down before other categories, and go up before other categories, and we're not seeing any recovery there as yet."
Education and Health Services, a traditionally strong industry, also lost jobs in March. But unlike other sectors, it did show job growth over the past year.
"Other services" -- a hodgepodge category including religious and grant-making organizations, repair and maintenance, and beauty salons and barbershops -- was the only sector that added jobs in the month of March, with a paltry 200 new jobs.
State economist Tom Stinson says the overall job losses in March -- 23,000 -- are extremely discouraging -- especially when you compare them to a healthy job market.
"Normally we gain about 40,000 jobs a year in Minnesota. That would be a normal year's growth," said Stinson. "But here in one month, we've basically lost half of a year's growth. And since the start of the year we've lost more than a year's growth."
Stinson says if you add up all the jobs the state has lost since the beginning of the recession -- 100,000 -- and the state's employment is now below where it was in November 2001, when the last recession ended.
"So these are just really disappointing numbers," Stinson said.
For Paulette Odette, the job market is more than disappointing. She got laid off in January from her job in Thief River Falls. She worked there 15 years and is still having a hard time adjusting.
"It's very hard to think about things when you don't have a job and you don't know how you're going to get one," said Odette. "It's like starting over. I like to do a good job wherever I work, whatever I've done. And it's hard to comprehend that you're no longer needed in that position."
The state's displaced workers program made it possible for Odette to take a computer class. It taught her word processing and spreadsheet programs and boosted her confidence. She says that helps in her effort to stay upbeat about a job hunt.
"You have to have a mindset that things will get better, because of what you're doing to make yourself a person that someone will enjoy having at their company to work with and that will benefit their company," said Odette.
Patrick Dentinger has also been taking a number of steps to deal with his unemployment He lost his job as a graphic designer in the Mankato area last year.
"I'm starting to sell off my personal belongings that were in storage," said Dentinger. "I'm now living with my sister and her husband, because I was evicted from my apartment in November due to not having money. So I think it's time to leave the area."
Dentinger has been working with a career counselor who said he'll have to move to find work as a graphic designer. Dentinger is gearing up for a job hunt in the Twin Cities or even other states.
DEED commissioner Dan McElroy says he's aware of how dispirited job hunters feel right now. But he says there are opportunities out there.
"We look at the number of job postings on minnesotaworks.net. It fluctuates a lot. But there are almost 13,000 postings as of Wednesday. That's down from 23,000 a year ago, but up from a low of 8,000 jobs, in the first week in February," said McElroy.
The problem is the competition for those positions has grown as the ranks of the unemployed have ballooned over the past year.
State officials say the federal stimulus package should mean more job creation soon.
- All Things Considered, 04/16/2009, 5:20 p.m.