Four MN cities still have double digit unemployment rates

What’s up with Brainerd?

That was the first thing out of my mouth when I started looking through the unemployment rates of major Minnesota cities.

At at time when much of the talk’s been about Minnesota’s overall declining unemployment rate (officials today said the rate is steady at 6.7 percent), Brainerd hit 18 percent in January.

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You don’t hear a lot about the city numbers. The data aren’t perfect. They are not seasonally adjusted so the jobless numbers always jump in the cold weather months. The populations are relatively small so it doesn’t take a lot to get percentages swinging.

Still, the trends aren’t good.

If you compare January jobless rates before, during and after the Great Recession, it looks like Brainerd and other towns are setting new “normal” unemployment rates significantly higher than they’ve been in the past.

Four Minnesota cities had double digit unemployment rates in January. Brainerd was tops. Grand Rapids came in at 14.7 percent, Virginia 11.5 percent and Cloquet at 10.4 percent.

Check out the charts below for each of those towns (click on the chart for a larger view).

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Of the four, Brainerd seems the most worrisome. Yes, unemployment looks better (11.8 percent) when spread over Cass and Crow Wing counties. But you’re still talking about a lot of the workforce on the sidelines, not producing.

Persistently high jobless numbers mean other parts of the economy are struggling, too. With nearly one out of five people unemployed in town, it’s no shock Brainerd is struggling with high home foreclosure rates .

Other cities have struggled in the recession. Hibbing crossed the 18 percent jobless line in June 2009.

Brainerd hit 21 percent in 2009. MPR’s Annie Baxter took an in-depth look then at what was happening. Construction woes were a big part of the problem.

The recovery in mining has at least brought the Hibbing jobless rate down below 10 percent.

What will save Brainerd?

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