Success and struggle in MN jobless data

Minnesota’s unemployment rate for March comes out Thursday and the odds are it will not be great. It hit 8.1 percent in February, catching up with the national rate and probably rose in March.

Here’s my first attempt at a MinnEcon chart: Minnesota unemployment rates by month from 1976 to February 2009:

I’ll get better at chart making! I didn’t have enough room to fit the years in at the bottom. The highest rate was 9 percent in November 1982. The lowest was 2.5 percent in April 1994. You can see all the data in a spreadsheet here.

Jobs and unemployment have been constant discussion topics with folks in our Public Insight Network. We’ve been asking people to share a story with us about their economies, and jobs has been the number one focus.

As we wait for the newest Minnesota numbers, I wanted to share two stories sent to us recently from people in our network. Patrick Dentinger of Nicollet, MN told us about the challenges of being an unemployed graphic designer in this economy:

I’ve been unemployed for nearly a year. My final unemployment payment occurs on my 1-year anniversary of filing: May 2nd, 2009. After that, I become one of the many officially uncounted unemployed. I’m in the Mankato area, and things are pretty bleak. The average number of jobs listed in the local paper every day is 3-4 total, in every catagory. I’m a Graphic Designer, and this area’s now flooded with out-of-work designers. My career counselor said at our first meeting that I’ll have to move or go back to school for a whole new career to find work.

We heard some good news from Michael Roundtree of Hager City, Wis., a Minnesota border town. He told us:

After 13 long months of unemployment, I finally landed a job. I never stopped looking for work. It was tiresome and mentally draining. I had only a handful of interviews throughout the ordeal. We nearly lost our house and we had to give up the wooded vacant lot next to our home.”

I highlighted Roundtree because it was a much bleaker story when he wrote us in September telling us that his Information Technology job had been outsourced to India:

I have been unemployed for 8 months now. My spouse is a substitute school teacher. We have no health care since I was laid off…My unemployment benefits run out in 30 days. We are now 30 days behind on our mortgage. I expect to start working in a few weeks, but the damage is already done to my credit report. The new job prospects pay about 30% less than what I was making.

I’m still not convinced we’ll see 10 percent unemployment here, though it will go higher and may end up the highest we’ve seen in more than 25 years. Let’s hope we get more Michael Roundtree stories to feature in the future.

Got a story to share about the economy around you? Tell us.

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