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More than 1,750 file for unemployment in Freeborn County

More than 1,750 residents from Freeborn County have applied for unemployment insurance since March 15 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The largest sector of workers affected across the state are food preparation workers and servers, according to the state agency, as well as health care workers, personal appearance workers, retail sales workers and construction workers, the state agency says.

Across the state, more than 439,000 people have applied for unemployment insurance in the last month. The age group with the highest number of applicants are people ages 25 through 34, followed by people ages 35 to 44.

Valerie Kvale, employer outreach specialist and career planner with Workforce Development Inc., said the state was at about 11 or 12% unemployment as of last week. She said the influx of applications has started to ease as people are getting through on unemployment phone lines.

“No matter what people might be feeling, you have to remember the massive numbers who have applied,” she said, noting the state agency has nearly tripled its staff to help handle the load.

She said most of the people in her office through Workforce Development are working from home and are busy responding to businesses and people reaching out to them about opportunities available for them.

Though some businesses have scaled back or implemented a hiring freeze, she said there are many businesses that are looking for employees, too.

She has seen openings in long-term health care for everything from licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and certified nursing assistants to dietary staff, housekeeping and personal care attendants.

There are also openings in supervisory or line leader positions, forklift drivers, factory maintenance and delivery drivers for some of the food manufacturing facilities, along with positions at grocery stores, Home Depot and Bomgaars.

Workers are also being hired in construction, agriculture and customer service, to name a few.

She said she hoped when the state opens back up again — even if it is just in steps — it will help alleviate the effect on local workers and businesses.

“We got here overnight, but I don’t know if we’re coming back overnight,” Kvale said.

The highest number of unemployment applications in southern Minnesota came from Olmsted County at 9,697, followed by Blue Earth County at 5,849.


Unemployment applications

Blue Earth County: 5,849

Faribault County: 819

Freeborn County: 1,757

Mower County: 1,871

Steele County: 2,340

Waseca County: 1,103

Olmsted County: 9,697

— Information from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development