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The state’s most-employed city: Marshall, not Minneapolis

Joblessness is the state’s cities varies widely, from 4.5 percent in Marshall to a Depression-like 21 percent in Brainerd.
By David Brauer

Doing Daily Glean this morning, I was stunned by this sentence in the Strib:

The Twin Cities metropolitan area generally reflects that level of joblessness, with the lowest unemployment rate in the state being recorded in Minneapolis in January — 6.9 percent — which represents just under 15,000 of the city’s residents.

Without minimizing such joblessness, the prospect of my beleaguered hometown ranking first in such a key stat was so counter-intuitive, I proclaimed it in the Glean’s headline.

Alas, it seems the Strib was in error.

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According to Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development data for January 2009, Minneapolis ranks an admirable but less-remarkable 22nd out of 64 state cities.

(The stat measures the percentage of civilians over 16 who are working. It measures a city’s residents, not a city’s employers. How many jobs a person has doesn’t matter.)

A closer look at city-by-city numbers revealed genuine surprises, at least to me.

For one, I had no idea how huge a gap exists between cities. The employment champs were non-metro college towns Marshall (4.5 percent unemployment) and Moorhead (4.7 percent). The other end of the spectrum: Brainerd (21 percent!), Bemidji (17.5 percent) and Grand Rapids (16.4 percent).

I’m sure much of this is seasonal, since they’re all summer-recreation hotspots, but considering the state’s overall joblessness rate is 7.6 percent, it’s surprisingly Depression-like.

A few more data sets:

Top 15 Job Meccas
1. Marshall, 4.5 percent
2. Moorhead, 4.7 percent
3. Shoreview 5.4 percent
4. Edina, 5.4 percent
5. Eden Prairie, 5.7 percent
6. Plymouth, 5.9 percent
7. Maple Grove, 6 percent
8. Worthington, 6 percent
9. Minnetonka, 6.1 percent
10. Woodbury, 6.1 percent

Bottom Ten
65. Brainerd, 21 percent
64. Bemidji, 17.5 percent
63. Grand Rapids, 16.4 percent
62. Hibbing, 14 percent
61. Virginia, 12.4 percent
60. Cloquet 11.9 percent
59. Alexandria, 11.7 percent
58. Albert Lea, 11 percent
57. Faribault, 10.9 percent
56. Chaska, 10.7 percent

Big Cities with Unemployment Below the State Average
22. Minneapolis, 6.9 percent
22. Rochester, 6.9 percent
26. Bloomington, 7.1 percent

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Big Cities Above the State Average
34. St. Paul, 7.8 percent
47. Duluth, 8.9 percent

One final note: While we’re focused on high joblessness, the state’s recent employment peak was in April 1999, when unemployment sank to 2.5 percent. Makes me nostalgic for the tech bubble.