Unemployment by the the numbers

The state’s unemployment rate jumped to 6.9 percent in December. What does this mean?

  • Ignoring the fact there are second and third shifts, a Minnesotan lost a job every 48 seconds in December, based on a 40-hour week.
  • Not everyone is in desperate straits: Health care and education added jobs. “Information” added a few, but not many. Everyone else tanked.
  • Jobs increased in Rochester, Fargo-Moorhead, and Grand Forks region, but they were more than offset by big losses in the Twin Cities, Duluth, and St. Cloud.
  • According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, 2,720,400 people in Minnesota had jobs in December. According to Census estimates, there are about 3 million Minnesotans over the age of 18 and under the age of 65.
  • The number of jobs shed in December was five times the number shed in the same month a year earlier.
    • k

      Yes, the unemployment rate increased.

      MN increased .5% while the national rate increased .4%.

      MN’s unemployment rate is still less than the national average of 7.2%.

      I understand the the number are not wonderful, but I honestly wonder how much of the dismal outlook is based upon perception.

      People losing jobs -> People saving rather than spending -> Less money moving around -> Less sales of products -> Lower production required -> Less jobs

      The more people believe the sky is falling the closer to the truth it becomes.

    • Barbara T

      There must be thousands of self-employed people statewide who do not qualify for unemployment benefits and therefore, are not counted in the numbers of unemployed. I know of several.

    • Bob Collins

      //The more people believe the sky is falling the closer to the truth it becomes.

      Yes, at some point in any recession, that’s what happens. That’s not necessarily how they start, but that’s how they are lengthened.

      The question, then, is WHAT will turn the tide? Do people have to take a risk to do it?

    • bsimon

      “People losing jobs -> People saving rather than spending -> Less money moving around -> Less sales of products -> Lower production required -> Less jobs”

      All true, but not the full story, which is worse. Before the recession people were spending more than they earned. Now that credit is tight, people can’t spend more than they earned; at least not as easily. So, even if we were enjoying full employment the economy would likely contract because we’re limited to spending what we’ve earned. Considering the savings rate is going up, we’re probably spending less than we’ve earned. Individually this is a fiscally prudent thing to do. Collectively, this is bad news for the economy for the reasons outlined in the above quote.

    • Alison

      I’ve always found it interesting that when a business cuts a hundred people it is a big news story for the media. When state and local governments need to trim their budgets, the hundreds of people who lose their jobs to save the money aren’t mentioned. The loss of jobs for these people is not reported as a tragedy. For example, I would appreciate hearing at the end of the school year how many teachers will lose their jobs in this state due to school district cuts for budgetary reasons.

    • Bob Collins

      I’ve never known AFSCME or MAPE not to be able to get publicity when state workers lose jobs or go on strike. Never. So I can agree with your premise. Although if you have information about state workers, I’m all ears as always.

      The last time I checked, the number of people employed by Minnesota had gone up.

      The funny thing about that — as I wrote here at the time — was how many people in positions of authority, had no idea how many people are employed by the state of Minnesota.

    • Alison

      I guess I had more in mind those people employed by school districts and local governments. They don’t get let go in huge numbers from the same place, but state funding cuts hurt them all. They tend not to get the attention because they aren’t part of mass layoffs. They are laid off a few each place all about the same time for the same reason. Not as glamorous a headline as Major Company X lays off 500.

    • Alison

      I should also clarify, I don’t have any hard numbers, but when you look at cutting billions out of a state budget, you know that that will result in many, many people losing jobs. You tend to hear a lot more about the either the services that will be lost or the money saved than you do about the people who had been providing those services.

      As an example, I talked to an official in a city where they decided to save money by letting snow pile up and plowing once at night instead of keeping the business district passable durinng the day. I doubt they laid off anyone due to this, but the person who would have been doing the day plowing is seeing smaller paychecks this year. I also heard reminders on MPR today of the school district that went to 4 day weeks to save money. Of course, I would suspect that means that custodians, cooks, and bus drivers are now working about 80% of the hours they used to. Balancing the budget on the backs of working folks.

    • michele

      It seems like many building trades people are/were self employed sub-contractors. I know that industry is just about at a standstill. So I wonder how many of these people get counted in the official numbers.

      As Barbara T mentioned above I think the true numbers are probably a lot higher because the MN economy seemed to “grow” a lot of small independent business over the last 8 years and small businesses get hit hard in tough financial times.

    • Elizabeth T

      // It seems like many building trades people are/were self employed sub-contractors.

      Many of them are.

      Is this where “seasonally adjusted unemployment” rates come from? Construction often “lays off” lots of people in Winter, although they aren’t quite “unemployed” … ??

      There are also thousands of people who work through temporary work agencies (Kelly Services, ManPower, etc.), who are not counted the same way, since they aren’t really “employed” by a specific “employer”. This is a growing industry, with companies sub-contracting things like janitorial services. If they cut janitorial services, the service company sees the job cuts, not MegaCorp.

      This also impacts the high-tech groups. Kelly and others have a “technical or engineering group. My last employer hired microbiologists and biochemists from Kelly.

      In my past dealings with consulting firms, they have a non-traditional “employee/employer relationship”. I interviewed for a position with one – I would have been hired by the consulting firm as a self-employed person. So, basically, the consulting firm had 2 “real” employees, and about 20 self-employed persons working for them. Cut the staff, it doesn’t show up on unemployment rolls.

      There are many different ways that a “true” unemployment figure gets hidden. Not out of laziness or conspiracy, just due to the now-arcane system of work/worker relationships.

    • Al

      No, Elizabeth, there is an element of conspiracy in all of this. The difference between me and the scientist next to me on the bench is that when we both get cut I get 2 months to look for an internal job, serverence, the little bit in my pension & 401k, and quite a bit more pay while I was there. They get shown the door – today. It’s employment without really having to follow the rules (or at least the old norms of what an employer provided). Many, many companies are doing it. Employees go along with it because it beats unemployment. In my company consulting used to be a decent way to work your way into a job in the company, but I haven’t seen anyone hired on in years.