Northland unemployment continues to dropUnemployment rates continued to improve throughout much of the Northland in May, fed by a seasonal boost in jobs and an improving economy.
By: Candace Renalls, Associated Press
Unemployment rates continued to improve throughout much of the Northland in May, fed by a seasonal boost in jobs and an improving economy.
Duluth’s jobless rate dipped to 5.9 percent in May, down from 6 percent in April. It was the city’s best showing for May since the recession drove rates up to 7.7 percent in May 2009, according to Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development data.
The unemployment rate for the greater Twin Ports area also slipped by 0.1 percentage point to 6.5 percent in May while Northeastern Minnesota’s rate dropped 0.4 percent point to 6.7 percent, the numbers show. The declines came as the number of jobs grew, fewer people collected unemployment and the number of people working or actively looking for work increased.
“This is a pretty typical trend we see up here when summer comes around,” said Jan Saxhaug, DEED’s regional labor market analyst in Duluth. “The downtick comes as more people find jobs in hospitality, construction, anything seasonal.”
If not for the late start to spring — and seasonal hiring — the drop could have been more dramatic, he said.
According to Saxhaug, growth in the construction and hospitality sectors is driving the trend of declining unemployment in the Northland. The region’s mining, logging and construction sectors saw a 2 percentage point increase in jobs in May, while leisure and hospitality jobs grew 6.5 percentage points in the Twin Ports area, which includes St. Louis, Carlton and Douglas counties.
Saxhaug noted that the region is hurt by its declining paper industry, including the upcoming elimination of 300 jobs at the Boise paper mill in International Falls.
“That would tend to skew the whole region’s unemployment numbers,” Saxhaug said. “That number is only going to get worse.”
Still, the region’s economy is showing positive trends.
Mining, along with its good-paying jobs, is on the upswing. Manufacturing, with a 1.5 percentage point increase in jobs in May, is projected to grow 8.5 percent by 2020. The retail and the health-care industries have grown. And construction is poised for major growth in Duluth with the planned construction of the $80 million corporate tower and $28.9 million multimodal transportation center downtown.
Ironically, as consumer confidence increases, more people look for work which can, in turn, drive unemployment up.