Yesterday the Wall Street Journal’s Real-Time Economics blog published a sortable summary chart of metro-level unemployment for March around the U.S. The breakout for Minnesota’s five biggest metro areas–from highest unemployment rates to lowest, with March ’08 rates listed parenthetically–is as follows:
Duluth: 10 percent (6.4 percent)
St. Cloud: 9.8 percent (5.9 percent)
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington: 8.4 percent (4.9 percent)
Rochester: 7.3 percent (4.8 percent)
Mankato-North Mankato: 6.9 percent (4.5 percent)
These are ugly numbers, particularly if you recall what Kevin Ristau of the Minnesota Jobs Now Coalition told me earlier this month about the relatively decent-looking numbers in the southwestern part of the state, where the Mankato area posted the state’s lowest metro unemployment rates: “I would argue that [employment figures look better] because they’ve already made the transition to a low-wage economy there. A lot of the jobs in that part of the state revolve around ag processing and food processing, and the demand for those products, as the economists like to say, is inelastic. So they’ve been able to keep the lousy jobs that they have. Or more of them, anyway. [The major decline] had already happened.”
But Minnesota’s cities are the very picture of health compared to the hardest-hit of the 310 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) included in the WSJ table. Even Duluth’s whopping 10 percent unemployment rate is only good for 108th place among the 310 MSAs cited by the Journal.
Here’s a snapshot of the top 30 metro unemployment rates around the country. Only five are in the Midwest, and four of those are in Michigan. Bear in mind that these are standard U3 unemployment numbers, and that a fuller reckoning with unemployment and underemployment in those areas–including “discouraged workers” who are no longer seeking employment, and the millions working only part-time against their wishes due to the state of the economy–would be roughly twice as high. These are depression-era numbers.