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Minnesota jobless rate hits 8%

By Mike Klein

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

The jobless rate shot upwards to 8 percent in southeastern Minnesota in January, as the recession took hold, according to numbers released Tuesday.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says 21,985 people were unemployed in the 11-county region. A year ago, the rate was 5.2 percent and 13,915 people were unemployed.

The state and U.S. jobless rates are both at 8.5 percent, when not seasonally adjusted.

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A rising number of layoffs and weak job growth has made it an extremely tight job market, said Jennifer Ridgeway, regional labor market analyst for DEED.

"Most people suspected they were going to go up in January, but the question was by what degree," Ridgeway said.

It was a substantial increase.

Double-digit jobless rates struck in Fillmore and Houston counties, with both now at 10.3 percent. A year ago they were at 6.9 and 6.3 respectively.

Olmsted County continued its relative prosperity, with a jobless rate of only 6.7 percent, up from 4.3 percent a year ago.

As a whole, the Rochester metropolitan area, consisting of Olmsted, Dodge and Wabasha counties, did well with a 7 percent jobless rate, compared to 9.4 percent in St. Cloud, 7.8 percent in Minneapolis-St. Paul and 9.9 percent in Duluth.

Ridgeway said the unemployment rate probably will rise again before it goes down.

According to the state of Minnesota’s office of Management and Budget, job growth is not expected until 2010. "Forecasters now expect a longer and deeper recession than was assumed in November," the office said in a press release Tuesday.

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Initial claims for unemployment insurance in southeast Minnesota, which reflect layoffs, were at 3,743 in January, up 50 percent from January 2008.

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