Weather Forecast


Brainerd area remains among highest unemployment in the state

For years, the highest jobless rate in a Minnesota city of 10,000 or more, was an unwelcome turf battle between central and northern communities.

Brainerd and Bemidji were still in double-digits for jobless ratings. The jobless rates encompass a wider area than the city limits of communities by using zip codes as markers but they give an idea of what is happening in the population centers.

Brainerd had a labor force of 6,974 people with 977 without jobs in March for a rate of 14 percent. Bemidji had a labor force of 7,539 with 875 without jobs and an unemployment rate of 11.6 percent. Grand Rapids, another perennial at the high end, was at 11.1 percent. That’s in a landscape of Minnesota cities dominated by jobless rates in the 4 percent and 5 percent range. There are just four cities in the state with double-digit unemployment.

Brainerd’s jobless numbers have not shifted dramatically. Double-digit unemployment has been the norm for the Crow Wing County seat since 2009. Counting the number of times the Brainerd area has posted a single-digit jobless since 2009 falls short of needing two hands. And even then the rate was just below 10 percent.

As is usual for this time of year with seasonal employment picking up, the jobless rate has been dropping slightly. It was 15 percent in Brainerd in January and 14.1 percent in February. A year ago in March the jobless rate was 13.6 percent. Two years ago it was 14.8 percent. Three years ago it was 15.6 percent. March of 2009 had a jobless rate of 21 percent.

Looking out farther, the Brainerd micropolitan covers Crow Wing and Cass counties with a labor force of 45,930 and 4,102 without jobs in March. The micropolitan jobless rate was 8.9 percent. Bemidji’s micropolitan area of Beltrami County has a labor force of 22,473 and a March jobless rate of 7.4 percent. Albert Lea’s micropolitan area, covering Freeborn County, had a jobless rate of 5.6 percent in March with a labor force of 16,239.

Across the seven-county lakes region, the March jobless rate ranged from a low of 6.6 percent in Todd County to a high of 10.5 percent in Mille Lacs County. Among area counties Todd and Wadena showed the greatest decrease from February. Todd County dropped from 7.1 percent while Wadena County was down from 9.4 percent. Jobless rates in Cass, Crow Wing were unchanged. Aitkin and Morrison counties ticked up just a fraction and Mille Lacs County dropped just slightly.

The state’s jobless rate was unchanged from February to March and down just slightly from January.

RENEE RICHARDSON 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