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Report: Minnesota Falling Behind in Jobs

October 18, 2007

St. Paul, MN – New Minnesota employment numbers are raising eyebrows. The September jobless rate rose to 4.9 percent, which is above the national average of 4.7 percent. Diane O'Brien with the Minnesota A.F.L.-C.I.O. says the state used to be an economic leader -- but now, it's a follower.

"All Minnesotans should be concerned about the increasing and persistent unemployment rates we've seen over the past six years, because it's a drag on our economy. This is a state that worked well for decades. Our economic policies need to be reexamined."

State officials say there were 6,300 fewer jobs last month. Department of Employment Commissioner Dan McElroy explains monthly numbers fluctuate, and notes Minnesota employers have added almost 10,000 jobs in the last year. The latest jobless report shows the construction industry was hardest hit, losing 2,800 jobs statewide. The report blames the weak housing market.

O'Brien worries current state policies aren't focused on jobs and growth.

"One way to have increased employment would have been to look at the bonding and transportation bills that would have created jobs for working Minnesotans, as well as increased revenue for businesses, and made sure those bills passed."

She says workers who lose jobs are facing some big challenges.

"Am I going to be able to pay the mortgage? Will I be able to keep the health insurance for my children? How am I going to buy the food and the pharmaceuticals that our family needs? All of those things are swirling through people's minds when they're laid off. Those are real fears."

She says the longer people are unemployed, the more likely they are to lose their health coverage and homes. And, it's especially tough for older workers, who face hurdles finding new jobs.

More information is available from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development website at www.deed.state.mn.us.

Jim Wishner/John Robinson, Public News Service - MN