Economy: Funny odd, not funny ha-ha

Minnesota State Roundup

Published November 1, 2008  | November 2008 issue

There’s probably a good, self-effacing Ole-and-Sven joke somewhere in Minnesota’s slumping economy, but please forgive state residents if they’re not in a laughing mood.

The housing market continues to suffer, especially in the Twin Cities. Through early August, permits and planned units in the metro were half their level from a year ago. But the downturn is much broader than just
the housing market. Since January, the state lost more than 16,000 jobs, helping to push overall unemployment to 6.2 percent, an eye-popping level because it not only exceeds the national average, but is the state’s highest rate since 1985.

The state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development noted that unemployment claims due to permanent layoffs have been rising. So many people were exhausting their 26-week unemployment benefits that Gov. Tim Pawlenty authorized the state’s involvement in a federal program that offers a 13-week extension.

In September, DEED also released results from its second-quarter job vacancy survey, and there was more bad news: Job vacancies dropped by 17 percent over the same quarter a year ago and were near all-time lows; worse, the ratio of unemployed persons to job vacancies—at 2.9—was 10 percent higher than at any time since the survey began in 2000.

Ronald A. Wirtz