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Brainerd’s jobless rate drops to 17.5 percent

Brainerd’s jobless rate, after reaching 18 percent in January, dropped slightly last month.

The latest unemployment numbers released by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development show a decrease to 17.5 percent for February. That downward trend is familiar territory. Jobless numbers in the lakes area typically climb to a year high during the height of winter before dropping each month as summer approaches. 

Since 2000, Brainerd’s jobless rate has dropped between January and February — sometimes by a full percentage point — eight times. It rose in 2005 and 2006 and was unchanged during the difficult 2009 when the jobless rate hung on in the 20 percent range for about four months to become  the highest jobless rate during the decade. 

Brainerd’s jobless rate tops the state’s 66 large cities. The most recent percentages mean 1,241 people are out of work from a labor force of 7,105 in the county seat. 

In the last 39 months, the city hasn’t been able to string more than two back-to-back months with single-digit jobless rates. And it managed that just once since November of 2007. 

February’s double-digit jobless rate continues an unrelenting streak of 28 straight months for Brainerd. During that time the jobless rate has ranged between 12.3 percent to 20.8 percent and has routinely topped the state for the highest unemployment among cities with 10,000 people or more. 

Brained is one of seven cities with double-digit unemployment for February. Fifty-nine cities are below 10 percent and many are well below that mark. Vadnais Heights, with a population of 12,868, had the lowest jobless rate at 3.7 percent. 

Bemidji’s rate was 14 percent. Grand Rapids was 14.2 percent. Alexandria was 11.1 percent. Duluth’s was 7.5 percent. Minneapolis was 6.2 percent. 

The Brainerd micropolitan, which includes Crow Wing and Cass counties with a labor force of 45,423, had a February jobless rate of 11.6 percent, or 5,289 people. 

For context, that’s a slight drop from January’s 11.7 percent. And it’s a better percentage than recent years. In February 2010, the micropolitan’s jobless rate was 12 percent. In 2009, the jobless rate for February was 13 percent. In 2008, February’s unemployment was 8.4 percent. 

For area counties, the February jobless rates were largely unchanged from January, which is typical for this time of year. 

February numbers were:

• Aitkin County, out of a labor force of 7,423, there are 880 people unemployed for a rate of 11.9 percent. 

• Cass County, there are 1,858 people without jobs from a labor force of 13,700 for an unemployment rate of 13.6 percent.

• Crow Wing County has the largest area labor force of 31,723 with 3,431 people without jobs for an unemployment rate of 10.8 percent. 

• Mille Lacs County has a labor force of 12,217 and 1,678 unemployed for a rate of 13.7 percent. 

• Morrison County’s labor force has 17,877 people with 2,133 people out of work for a jobless rate of 11.9 percent. 

• Todd County’s labor force numbers 13,088 with 1,145 people unemployed for a jobless rate of 8.7 percent. 

• Wadena County has 6,543 people in its labor force with 743 jobless for an unemployment rate of 11.4 percent. 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.