Jobless rates drop in much of Northeastern Minnesota
Duluth’s jobless rate dropped to 5.8 percent in March, down from 6 percent in February, while the greater Twin Ports area — which encompasses all of St. Louis, Carlton and
Douglas counties — also dipped 0.2 percentage points to 6.7 percent, according to Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development data released last week.
“It’s a typical seasonal trend,” said Jan Saxhaug, DEED’s regional labor market analyst.
While a seasonal rise in unemployment in December and January is common in Northeastern Minnesota, the seasonally unadjusted rates usually start dropping in February.
Blame this year’s delay on the weather.
“It’s been a real hard winter, and that’s definitely reflected in the unemployment numbers,” Saxhaug said. “Unemployment numbers started dropping a little later than normal.”
In Northeastern Minnesota, rates dropped from 7.4 percent in February to 7.2 percent in March, as jobs grew, fewer people collected unemployment and the labor force grew.
Some areas outside the Twin Ports area have higher unemployment rates, despite sizable drops in March. They include Grand Rapids with 11.1 percent, Cloquet with 8.5 percent and Hibbing with 7.5 percent.
Parts of the Northland, however, continued to see rising unemployment, including Koochiching County, which increased from 10.1 percent to 10.4 percent and Aitkin County, which edged up 0.2 percentage points to 9.2 percent.
As whole, the labor force — defined as those working and looking for work — increased last month in Northeastern Minnesota.
“If that hadn’t happened, the unemployment would have dropped even further, because more people are out looking,” Saxhaug said. “Wherever you see the labor force go up, it means more people are out looking.”
But, he says the real story is the job growth that’s underway, driven by the private sector.
Private sector jobs are 0.6 percent ahead of last year in the Twin Ports. For four straight months the private sector employment in the Twin Ports has been higher than those months in the past, state data show.
“That’s notable because it’s been a very difficult and challenging winter, and yet the private sector is still managing to add jobs,” he said. “So, once we get a break (with the weather), everything will pick up.”
While jobs in tourism and hospitality have been doing well all year, the biggest job increases last month came in mining, logging and construction.
“Construction is gearing up again,” Saxhaug said. “There are a lot of big projects in the region. The hope is it will come back strong.”