Dwindling jobs + high unemployment = worst job market in 9 years

A post from my colleague Mike Caputo:

We told you last week about the .3 percent decrease in Minnesota’s unemployment numbers. That’s the good news.

But check this out: The number of job vacancies decreased by 40 percent from the second quarter of 2008 to 2009. That means there were 7.7 unemployed people for each vacancy statewide, compared to 2.9 people per job opening the year before. Here’s how the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development characterizes the result:

“…it indicates that the labor market is less favorable for job seekers than during any other period throughout the history of the job vacancy series dating back to fourth quarter 2000.”

That helps explain the experience of people like Eliot Axelrod of Bloomington, a source in our Public Insight Network who says he’s been through 200 job interviews since being laid off late last year.

Some of the jobless are exploring other options.

Sarah Waline of St. Cloud decided to go back to school for retraining. The 31-year-old mother (and Network source) was laid off in February. She plans to take technical courses under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

It’s apparently a big crowd. Schools in Albert Lea and St. Cloud are experiencing record enrollment, while enrollment numbers at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will surely beat the 3 percent increase MnSCU schools saw in 2008-09, says Melinda Voss, spokesperson for MnSCU.

“When the economy goes down, enrollment goes up,” says Voss.

(And don’t forget, Gov. Tim Pawlenty reduced expected funding for colleges and universities by $100 million. So class sizes will be larger, says Voss, and at schools that don’t limit enrollment, some students may have to wait to get into a desired program. Students who attend universities with more strict admissions policies could be turned away, but Voss had no definitive numbers.)

Then there are those who have decided to stop applying for work and, instead, create their own. Paul Wenzel of Minneapolis lost his job in the spring and said he’s gotten enough freelance leads to keep going.

“I have been a full-time web developer at a number of companies, moonlighting on evenings and weekends. I already had my own LLC arranged beforehand, I was already prepared to keep my family afloat after the layoff. I have been able to provide services to local companies that need knowledgeable developers who can walk in and get things done.”

Of course, the state’s jobless numbers don’t count the Wenzels and Walines of the world, only people who are actively seeking jobs.

If you’ve lost work, what’s your plan of attack? Tell Minnesota Public Radio news.

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