Unemployment holds steady in Twin Ports area
May unemployment figures released Monday show little change in the number of people without jobs in St. Louis, Douglas and Carlton counties. Between April and May, the unemployment rate for the Duluth-Superior metropolitan area slipped to 9.4 per...
May unemployment figures released Monday show little change in the number of people without jobs in St. Louis, Douglas and Carlton
Between April and May, the unemployment rate for the Duluth-Superior metropolitan area slipped to 9.4 percent from 9.5 percent, according to seasonally unadjusted numbers reported by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. That compares with
7.8 percent unemployment at the state level in May, down from 8.1 percent in April.
"A movement of one-tenth of 1 percent means the unemployment rate is essentially unchanged. It tells us that unemployment is probably no better and no worse than it was before," said Tony Barrett, an economics professor at the College of St. Scholastica.
Drew Digby, a regional labor analyst for the Department of Employment and Economic Development, agreed that the regional figure couldn't be characterized as a notable improvement, particularly as history often shows job growth between May and June. But at least the latest numbers don't point to a worsening situation, he said.
Digby also took encouragement from the resilience of the Duluth job market. Unemployment in the city fell to 7.5 percent in May from 7.9 percent in April.
"There have been a lot of investments in the last five to 10 years that have really paid off for Duluth," Digby said. "I think it's a good lesson that diversification of an economy really does pay off."
He contrasted the situation in Duluth with that of Iron Range cities such as Virginia and Hibbing, which had May unemployment rates of 14.9 and 14.6 percent respectively. In April, Virginia's unemployment rate was 13.4 percent and Hibbing's was 12.9 percent.
But those recent rates understate the true level of joblessness on the Range, Barrett said, explaining the state doesn't count laid-off people who expect to be recalled in the near future. Consequently, a number of miners who were without work were not reflected in May's unemployment rate.
Barrett agreed that Duluth appears better positioned to weather the recession than some other communities.
"Duluth has other industries, besides mining, to help carry its economy," he said, citing tourism as just one example.
Barrett theorized that as Duluth typically attracts tourists from throughout the Upper Midwest, it may be less likely to see a large downturn than long-distance travel destinations.
"Duluth's tourism industry may not recession-proof, but it may be recession-resistant," he said.