Weather Forecast


Brainerd strings together jobless numbers not seen since 2007

Brainerd’s jobless rate stands out among all cities of 10,000 or more in the state.

Topping the list for the highest unemployment percentage has been a regular duel between Brainerd and Bemidji. The two powerhouses in jobless rates are again outpacing the field and by a considerable margin.

If there is a bright side, it comes in a trend of December jobless rates extending back nearly a decade. On that scale, Brainerd is doing better. For the first time in 65 months, Brainerd had six straight months below 10 percent.

In 2013 — for the first time since 2007 — Brainerd was able to string together more than two months where the jobless rate sank below 10 percent. From May through October, the unemployment rate fell below 10 percent and stayed there. It wasn’t by much, but the jobless numbers ranged from 8.9 to 9.8 percent.

The jobless rate climbed much higher in the years that stretch between the winters of 2007 and 2013. The latest numbers are a marked improvement from the winters of 2009, where the jobless rate hit jaw-dropping heights of 21 percent or the following winter with 18 percent unemployment.

For this past December — the latest jobless numbers available from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development — Brainerd had a jobless rate of 12.5 percent. Bemidji trailed at 10.8 percent. Brainerd and Bemidji had the only double-digit unemployment in the state. In most instances, the jobless numbers for large cities across the state were less than half numbers posted in either city.

In the early 2000s, the double-digit jobless rate was the oddity. From January 2000, to December 2002, there were two months where the jobless rate in Brainerd rose above 10 percent. It never passed 11 percent until the winter of 2003.

Still in 2003, 2004 and 2005 it was the norm in the lakes area seasonal market to have the jobless rate rise as the temperatures fell. The norm at least for a three to four month winter spell. Going back to 2000, the increase for winter meant going from 7.8 percent that January to jobless rates of less than 5 percent for most of the rest of the year.

By December of 2007, when the Great Recession officially began double-digit unemployment was a fixture in Brainerd. From December 2007 until the spring of 2013, the jobless rate dropped below those double-digits just five times.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852