Stress-testing the recovery

November 2009
Map 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: The recovery that wasn't

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.

Bemidji: A tale of two economies

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.

Albert Lea: The manufacturing meltdown

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.

Brainerd: When is a recovery a recovery?

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.

jobs overview

An employment overview

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.

What residents are saying

Read the perspectives of residents in these communities, some of whom are struggling personally with unemployment.

MPR's Job Pain Index

MPR's The Job Pain Index provides a gauge of how hard it is to find a job in Minnesota.


Minnesota Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
has more information on Minnesota's job situation and resources for those who are unemployed.

Iron Range Resources,
the state's economic development agency in the Iron Range.

Enbridge pipeline project pumps millions into local communities,
an MPR News report from September 2009.


Reporters: Bob Kelleher, Tom Robertson, Elizabeth Baier, Annie Baxter
Broadcast editor: Bill Catlin
Online editors: Melanie Sommer, Steve Mullis

MPR News

Listen Now

Other Radio Streams from MPR

Classical MPR
Radio Heartland