Employment in Albert Lea

Published 7:00 pm Saturday, May 22, 2010

Employment Statistics by county for March 2010:

Freeborn: 15,011

Mower: 20,283

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Faribault: 6,761

Employment Statistics by county for March 2009:

Freeborn: 15,214

Mower: 20,010

Faribault: 6,981

2010 unemployment rates:

Freeborn County 8.6 percent

Mower County 6.7 percent

Faribault County 10.2 percent

Minnesota 7.2 percent

National 9.9 percent

New numbers released Thursday about a slight improvement in the state’s unemployment rate appear to correlate with the job market locally, Albert Lea business leaders said Friday.

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Dan Dorman and Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Director Randy Kehr said there have been several signs that the economy is improving locally.

“I think there’s reason we ought to be optimistic,” Dorman said.

Temporary employment services have started to see an increase in requests for employment, more companies have been asking about expansions, and several local food manufacturing companies have been producing more — if not almost double — than what they were producing a year ago, Dorman and Kehr said.

Local statistics

According to local Manpower Branch Manager Laura Lunde, Freeborn County’s unemployment rate is at 8.6 percent this year, compared to 9.7 percent this time last year — which was a 10-year high.

Faribault and Mower Counties are also seeing a decrease in unemployment over last year.

“It has definitely improved over the course of a year,” Lunde said.

According to the Associated Press, state officials on Thursday said Minnesota added 10,200 jobs in April, which helped push the state unemployment rate down slightly from a 7.3 percent rate for March to 7.2 percent in April.

The national unemployment rate stands at 9.9 percent. This is the biggest gap between Minnesota and the U.S. average on record.

Kehr said he attended a meeting Thursday with Minnesota Workforce Development, during which he and others in attendance discussed the unemployment numbers.

“There have been manufacturing jobs lost, but I think generally the tenure of what we talked about yesterday was that things are starting to turn, be it ever so slowly,” he said.

He noted he’s heard from several food manufacturers that they’ve had record production volumes within the past month; others have told him that the companies they manufacture for are starting to order more.

“They’re seeing more orders coming in, and it trickles down to where they need more staff,” Kehr said. “That stabilizes their workforce.”

Unemployment claims are also decreasing.

Dorman said from what he’s aware of, Mrs. Gerry’s, Cargill and Minnesota Corrugated Box have either already put in or are planning to put in more jobs.

“It’s not like someone is out there saying we’re going to hire 100 people, but that’s not how we lost them either,” he said. “We lost them a few jobs here and a few jobs there.”

Another good sign is that Palleton Pallets, a pallet-making company that historically operated in Lake Mills, Iowa, recently came to Albert Lea because this is where they want to permanently locate their business.

“If the pallet business is good, that means their customers are busy,” he said. “That’s a good sign for manufacturing as well.”

Overall, he noted that while Albert Lea may not see dramatic growth, he has reason to be optimistic about the future.

There have been more inquires about companies in Albert Lea wanting to expand in the last 30 days than there have been in the six months prior.

Resources for job help

Manpower of Albert Lea, located in Northbridge Mall, is one resource for people who are job searching and for businesses that are looking for applicants. They help area businesses in Freeborn, Mower and other area counties.

“A company could use us for the recruiting process,” Lunde said. “We do advertising, screening and interviewing so only viable candidates are selected for final interviews with the company.”

Lunde said that last year Manpower’s services were not being used as much as previous years and many companies were looking for people to fill short-term project jobs. Manpower has noticed an increase in the last two months.

Manpower also helps those looking for jobs with their resource center. Another resource for job seekers is the Minnesota Workforce Center of Albert Lea in Skyline Plaza. There are four agencies that make up the workforce center.

“It’s like a shopping mall for jobs,” placement and marketing specialist Valerie Kvale said.

Workforce Development and Positively Minnesota are the larger agencies that deal with job placement. Experience Works helps those over the age of 55 find work, and the fourth agency helps connect adults and youth in a mentoring program. There are lots of resources at the workforce center for job seekers to use.

There are scheduled resume classes for those wanting to learn how to market themselves to potential employers as well as a resource library. Kvale said people come there to find a job as well as to find a better job than they currently have.

“When people come into our workforce center they’re able to work with computers and public access to Internet for job searching,” Kvale said.

The Minnesota Workforce Center can be reached at 379-3409.