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Food workers lead unemployment claims in Northeastern Minnesota

The occupation group had the region's highest percentage of unemployment claims.

FSA Unemployment jobless
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Workers in food preparation and serving jobs are leading the region in unemployment insurance claims.

As of Monday, over 19% of Northeastern Minnesota's 34,250 unemployment applications since the start of the pandemic were from the food prep and serving occupation group. They help make up a historic level of unemployment in the U.S. due to economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus.

In March 16,785 claims were filed in the Northeastern Minnesota region, while 3,485 claims were filed in March 2009 during the Great Recession, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

"I can't say how much of that is attributable to the pandemic, specifically, but I think we can make some assumptions that there's definitely an impact there," said Carson Gorecki, northeast regional analyst for DEED.

From March 15 to May 4, the sales and related jobs group held the second-highest percentage of all claims in the region, with 3,151 unemployment applications filed. And the construction and extraction group saw 2,875 unemployment claims, making it the third-highest occupation group, according to data from DEED.


Unemployment insurance applications ask for occupational group, rather than industry.

Over 10% of applicants didn't list an occupation, according to data from DEED.

Initially, during the week of March 15, people who worked in food preparation and serving made up over 45% of the region's applications — an amount that Gorecki attributes to the first of Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home executive orders that temporarily closed restaurants and most businesses.

This occupational group has been disproportionately impacted, as it makes up over 10% of the region's total jobs. "We just have a higher concentration of the industry," Gorecki said.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, new occupations are seeing rising numbers of unemployment applications.

"As we've moved through and the pandemic has gone on longer and the stay-at-home orders have gone on, it seems that some of the other occupational groups and industries have been hit at different points and in different ways," Gorecki said.

The construction and extraction occupational group, as well as the health care practitioners and technical group, are now seeing an increase in unemployment numbers, he said.


It's difficult to pinpoint exact causes for the changing unemployment rates in each occupational group, as the situation is constantly changing, he said.

Economic recovery will vary by occupational group, Gorecki said. It will depend on the size of the employer, how well they were prepared for a major economic event and more.

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