Jobless rates dip across the region in October

Published 3:17 pm Saturday, November 28, 2015

By Jeffrey Jackson, Owatonna People’s Press

Unemployment across the region fell last month to its lowest level since last autumn, according to figures released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Three of the communities — Northfield, Austin and Owatonna — recorded jobless rates of less than 3 percent.

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Northfield’s unemployment rate, 2.4 percent, was the lowest across the region and marked the second month in a row its unemployment rate was under 3 percent. In September, Northfield’s jobless rate stood at 2.7 percent.

Austin saw a similar decline, falling from 2.9 percent in September to 2.6 percent last month.

Owatonna’s jobless rate in October fell to 2.7 percent, down from September’s 3.1 percent rate. That marked the first time that Owatonna has seen an unemployment rate below 3 percent since last November when it stood at 2.9 percent and the last time that the city had seen a rate of 2.7 percent since October 2014. Before that, one has to go back to December 2000 to find an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent for the City of Owatonna.

October also marked the first time since figures have been kept that the city recorded more than 15,000 people working, according to DEED numbers. With a work force of 15,428, the city recorded the number of employed at 15,016 and the number of unemployed at 412. The closest Owatonna had come to that 15,000 employment threshold was in October 2013, when 14,940 were employed.

The numbers also stand in stark contrast in March 2009, when unemployment soared in Owatonna and across the region in the aftermath of the Great Recession. At that time, the number of the employed in the city stood at 12,448, contrasted with 1,536 unemployed for a jobless rate of 11 percent, the highest unemployment rate for the city since DEED started recording those figures.

Both Waseca and Faribault saw declines in their jobless rates as well, Waseca’s dropping from 4.5 percent in September to 3.9 percent in October. The drop marks the first time that Waseca has seen an unemployment rate of less than 4 percent since November 2006, before the Great Recession.

Faribault, which has consistently shown the highest jobless rate for cities in the region this year, continued that trend with a rate of 4.6 percent, though the rate was a drop from its 5.3 rate in September and its 6 percent rate in August.

Only Albert Lea saw an increase in the jobless rate over the two-month period, albeit a slight uptick, among the region’s small cities. The unemployment rate increased from 3.2 percent in September to 3.3 percent last month.

Several counties in the region recorded jobless rates below the 3 percent mark in October, DEED reported, with Nicollet County leading the way at 2.3 percent, down slightly from 2.4 percent in September.

Both Mower and Steele counties recorded an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent in October. Mower County’s rate was down from 2.7 percent in September, while Steele County showed a bigger decline, dropping from 2.9 percent the previous month. It was the lowest rate the county had shown since October of last year.

For the first time since last year, Rice County saw its jobless rate dip below 3 percent, falling from 3.2 percent in September to 2.8 percent in October. Dodge County went from 3.1 percent to 2.9 percent over the same period.

Only Freeborn, Le Sueur and Waseca counties had unemployment rates at or above the 3 percent mark. However, all three counties showed a slight decline in the rates. Freeborn County recorded an unemployment rate of 3 percent, down from 3.1 percent in September. Le Sueur County’s rate dropped from 3.2 percent in September to 3.1 percent in October. And Waseca County’s rate declined from 3.6 percent to 3.3 percent over the same period.

The rates across the region are generally in line with the 3-percent unemployment rate for the state of Minnesota and better than the national unemployment rate of 4.8 percent.