Job loss, opportunity twister cuts across Minnesota

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Brent Olson, a Big Stone County commissioner, told us a story back in April of the huge demand for a single government job.

Based on the county jobless rate, Olson figured “nearly thirty percent of the people looking for a job applied for ONE job.”

It was a mind-blowing observation. But Olson’s one of MinnEcon’s Economic Lookouts and his insights into the western Minnesota economy have been spot-on.

We recalled his words this morning as we read through new research released today by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development that shows the Great Recession has carved tornado-like paths of job losses and shrinking job opportunities across Minnesota.

Some of the worst hit counties sit next to the counties showing job growth. Here’s a map produced by DEED. (Click on the map for a larger view)

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The report notes:

Between third quarter 2007 and third quarter 2009, Minnesota lost 143,000 jobs or 5.3 percent of total employment. Nicollet County in southern Minnesota, with the highest employment loss (12.6 percent), is near counties with some of the lowest losses. Employment gains have been witnessed in nine counties, with Murray County in southwestern Minnesota having the highest gain of 4.7 percent over two years.

Here’s a county map for reference:

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Big Stone County was one of those nine that saw job gains. But it’s a grimmer picture in the counties around it.

And you can see Olson’s April observations come to light in DEED’s data on shrinking job opportunities.

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The Upper Minnesota Valley counties include Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine. At the end of last year, that region had nearly 40 unemployed Minnesotans for every job vacancy.

The state says:

Overall, the number of statewide job vacancies dropped 55 percent between the fourth quarter of 2006 and the fourth quarter of 2009.

The gap between job opportunities and the number of unemployed is much more drastic in Greater Minnesota. While there are 7.5 unemployed per job opening in the seven-county Metro Region, there are 10.2 unemployed per opening in Greater Minnesota.

These ratios have increased substantially since 2006. Upper Minnesota Valley represents the worst-case scenario of going from one of the lowest unemployment ratios to the highest–up 15.8 times over three years.

As Minnesota gropes its way out of recession, that job opportunity gap might end up more worrisome than the unemployment rate.

It’s worth repeating that in some parts of Minnesota there were five unemployed people per job opening at the end of 2009 while in other parts there were 40 jobless people per vacancy.

Since then, the overall statewide unemployment picture has improved . But it’s increasingly clear that it’ll take some parts of Minnesota a lot long longer than others to recover from the recession’s damage.

What’s the job picture look like in your part of Minnesota? Drop us a line and tell us. Help make us all smarter about what’s happening across our state.

BONUS INFO: Online help wanted ads in Minnesota dropped in June, MPR reported today.

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