Discouraged Minnesota workers? Maybe not

Lots of “good news, but…” reactions from the MN jobs data. Yes, the jobless rate slipped to 8 percent. But thousands left the labor force. Discouraged workers? Not sure the data bear that out.

Yes, the labor force did fall 6,000 from July to August. But if you look at the range of data the past couple years, it’s hard to argue that we’re seeing a wave of people bail out of trying to find work.

In fact, the Minnesota labor force is up 46,000 from December 2007, the official start of the recession.

The August labor force was also about 17,000 more than a year ago, making it difficult to argue there’s an exodus of workers.

Nationally the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of “discouraged” workers — people not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them — was 758,000 in August, nearly twice what it was a year earlier. Still, that’s less than one half of one percent of the nation’s civilian labor force.

I’m not suggesting that many Minnesotans aren’t struggling. Folks in MPR’s Public Insight Network have shared heartfelt stories of discouragement as they search for work in this recession.

Avangelina McKnight, a Network source who was recently hired on contract to help in a state jobless center, told us recently, “there is not a day goes by that I do not get tear-filled eyes when speaking with (unemployment insurance) applicants and listening to their search, struggle and worry.”

But they aren’t dropping out. Even in the deepest recession in decades, the state’s labor force is up and the participation rate of Minnesotans in the labor force is nearly the same as when the recession began.

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Think I’m off base? Post below or email me back.

Meanwhile, take a look at the profiles of the unemployed written by my colleague Bob Collins.

And check out the map below to read what Minnesotans have been telling us about the jobs climate where they live.

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