Minnesota's jobless rate is lower than the national average, but some parts of the state have endured double-digit unemployment during this year. We visit several communities that face some of the toughest economic problems to be found in Minnesota, and will test the strength and breadth of an economic recovery.
Hibbing is at the center of Minnesota's struggling taconite mining industry. The entire taconite sector shut down during the course of the year. Now some mines are coming back online, but the rebound is completely bypassing Hibbing.
The housing bust brought the wood products industry in Bemidji to its knees, if not to the grave. The industry remains down for the count, even as a nearby pipeline construction project fills hotel rooms and restaurants, and adds construction jobs to the region.
In Albert Lea, the pain of the manufacturing slump is acute. That sector has lost nearly 43,000 jobs in Minnesota since the start of the recession -- more than any other major industry. With a heavy reliance on factory jobs, Albert Lea's jobless rate topped 11 percent earlier this year.
The Brainerd area once boomed with lake home construction, and manufacturing companies offered some good paying jobs. But both of those industries have taken major employment hits. Now there may be signs of a recovery, but it depends on whom you ask.
A closer look at the economic conditions in each of these four cities, and the reasons why their jobs picture is so much worse than other parts of the state.
Read the perspectives of residents in these communities, some of whom are struggling personally with unemployment.
MPR's The Job Pain Index provides a gauge of how hard it is to find a job in Minnesota.