Weather Forecast


Jobless number improve from previous years, but remain high in region

Jobless numbers in December reflected a typical winter climb but not the increase seen in recent years.

Across the seven-county region, jobless numbers this past December were below those posted in 2012, well below the double-digits of 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. December 2013 also posted lower numbers than during the same month in 2007, officially the start of the Great Recession. To find lower unemployment rates for the last month of the year means going back to 2006 before the meltdown was fully understood.

Crow Wing County has the largest labor force, at 31,309 workers, than the other six counties in the region. Second is Morrison County with 17,306.

Combined, the seven counties 7,695 workers from the overall labor force are listed as unemployed. All of the area counties have jobless numbers less than 10 percent. Cass County has the highest percentage at 9.2. Crow Wing County has the largest number of jobless at 2,380 people.

Across the state’s 87 counties, just three had higher jobless rates than Cass County. Clearwater with 12.3 percent, Kanabec with 9.9 percent and Koochiching with 9.4 percent.

The majority of the counties had jobless rates in the 4 and 5 percent range. Rock County boasted the lowest numbers at 2.9 percent.

Among the large cities in the state, with populations of 10,000 or more, most unemployment rates were 3, 4, and 5 percent range. Only two cities had double-digits — Brainerd and Bemidji.

And Brainerd won the dubious crown of the highest jobless rate among the large cities at 12.5 percent, beating Bemidji’s 10.8 for the top spot. The Brainerd Lakes Chamber has noted Brainerd encompasses the 56401 zip code for the jobless rate so it is not taking the city limits into consideration alone.

So how does the even larger area of the Brainerd Micropolitan compare to others around the state? Of the 16 micropolitans, ranging from Austin to Worthington, the Brainerd Micropolitan has the largest labor force and the highest unemployment.

The Brainerd Micropolitan covers Crow Wing and Cass counties for a labor force of 44,564. Of those, 3,594 are listed as unemployed or a rate of 8.1 percent.

Other micropolitan jobless rates, labor force and jobless percentage.

• Albert Lea, 15,988, 4.9 percent.

• Alexandria, 20,512, 4.2 percent.

• Austin, 21,060, 3.9 percent.

• Bemidji, 21,772, 6.6 percent.

• Fairmont, 10,982, 4.4 percent.

• Faribault-Northfield, 32,138, 5 percent.

• Fergus Falls, 30,130, 5.5 percent.

• Hutchinson, 18,802, 5.3 percent.

• Marshall, 14,871, 4.2 percent.

• New Ulm, 14,986, 4.6 percent.

• Owatonna, 21,077, 4.1 percent.

• Red Wing, 25,742, 4.6 percent.

• Willmar, 23,823, 4.8 percent.

• Winona, 23,823, 4.8 percent.

• Worthington, 11,333, 3.5 percent.

The Brainerd Micropolitan’s unemployment rate for December rose to 8.1 percent from 7 percent in November. This December’s rate is lower than the jobless percentages posted for Decembers in the last few years. The highest jobless rate for the Brainerd Micropolitan throughout 2013 was posted in January at 10.6 percent.

The state has five metropolitan areas — Duluth, Mankato-North Mankato, Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Rochester and St. Cloud.

The Mankato-North Mankato area has the smallest population of the metro group with a labor force of 57,578. The others all have labor forces in excess of 100,000 with the Twin Cities area accounting a labor force of more than 1.8 million.

The unemployment rates across the metropolitans range from a low of 3.6 percent in the Mankato area to a high of 5.9 percent in Duluth. Both Duluth and the Twin Cities include portions of Wisconsin in the mix. Duluth’s metropolitan area includes Carlton, St. Louis counties in Minnesota and Douglas County in Wisconsin. The Twin Cities includes Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Washington and Wright counties in Minnesota and Pierce and St. Croix counties in Wisconsin.

Moving the picture even farther out. Minnesota’s jobless rate, seasonally adjusted, was 4.6 percent in December, unchanged from November, but trending lower than any month going back to June of 2007.

Nationally, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate, was 6.7 in December, also the lowest in five years.

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