Jobless rates for August improve in the NorthlandWhen it comes to jobless rates, Duluth had its best August since before the recession.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
When it comes to jobless rates, Duluth had its best August since before the recession.
Unemployment dropped nearly a half percentage point to 5.5 percent, the lowest showing for summer’s dog days’ month since 2007.
Duluth wasn’t alone.
The entire Northeast Minnesota area saw declines, including a 1 percentage point drop — from 8.9 percent to 7.9 percent — in Hibbing, according to Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development data released Tuesday.
Unemployment for Northeastern Minnesota slid from 6.5 percent in July to 6 percent in August. The greater Twin Ports area that includes
St. Louis, Carlton and Douglas counties had the same decline.
“They were pretty big drops,” said Jan Saxhaug, DEED’s regional labor market analyst in Duluth. “It went down everywhere in the region. If you look at every county and city where data is kept, it
“Rates dropped significantly statewide,” he continued. “If we hadn’t followed suit here, that would have been pretty disappointing.”
As with the rest of the state, a combination of factors are contributing to the decreases that go beyond the typical late summer dip and a recovering economy. Fewer people are on unemployment at the same time that the labor force — the number of people working and actively looking for work — is shrinking, creating job vacancies.
“People are either giving up their job search or retiring,” Saxhaug said. “That will probably be a trend for the foreseeable future as the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age.”
So if there are job vacancies, why isn’t unemployment even lower?
The answer, Saxhaug says, is found in the skills gap. Jobs fall into two categories, skilled and unskilled. And employers aren’t getting enough skilled applicants to fill certain positions, so jobs remain unfilled. They include jobs in engineering, where 7 percent of the jobs remain unfilled, he said.
While DEED recently announced the state has recovered the jobs lost during the recession, the Northland is still down a few thousand, state data show.
“We’re not quite there yet,” Saxhaug said. “A lot of the job recovery has been in the Twin Cities where the economy is diverse. It’s less diverse here. Up here, manufacturing, mining and construction were hit hard. It’s going to take us longer to recover those jobs, but we’re getting there, slowly but surely.”