Is your city or region experiencing a jobless economic recovery?

District Voices

Published November 1, 2003  | November 2003 issue

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Editor's note: Interviews were conducted the week of Sept. 8.

As a whole, yes, that's true. We're sharing the same recovery the rest of the nation seems to be experiencing. We're a fairly rural part of the state, with a population of 64,000. We did see some layoffs. We've seen some reorganization in the mining industry within our two mines here. They experienced some layoffs but seem to be stabilized and stronger. The university here also faced budget cuts and layoffs and stabilized as a result. We're not predicting any more cuts in the near future. The hospital here didn't go through as many cuts, more through attrition.
Mike Gokey, Director of Economic Development
Marquette Chamber of Commerce—Marquette, Mich.

We've never had a high unemployment rate. We continue to have a low unemployment rate. While we have a lot of high-tech industry, the fastest growing sectors here are in the medical arena and our university. Enrollment is up and that has helped add new businesses. Not only do people come to Bozeman, but university folks like to stay or come back and start their own business. The university is growing. There's also a lot of construction going on in the retail and service industries. Motels and restaurants have opened up.
Jarvis Brown, City Commissioner
Bozeman, Mont.

It depends on the industry. We're seeing some recovery. We have large manufacturing bases, and they've seen some hiring in the areas of office, hospital and school furniture and food service. ... We also have a major highway construction firm that's been very busy—the work isn't in-state, but their base is. We have a fairly good variety of manufacturing companies, and most are seeing a good recovery. Construction is good; the pipeline [construction] is bringing in workers, as well as construction of homes, commercial properties and a recreational facility in Dickinson. Overall, things are starting to pick up. Some hiring is taking place. We're seeing businesses that are in anticipation of a rosier future. Most are optimistic.
Ron Lisko, Customer Service Office Manager
Job Service North Dakota—Dickinson, N.D.

As you know it is hard (impossible) with the data I have to discern whether the recent job growth is simply laid-off workers being called back or new jobs being created. However, I can provide some insight into the overall employment picture in the La Crosse and the Seven Rivers region [a 50-mile radius around La Crosse]. Unlike the national economy where employment peaked in March of 2001, we along with Wisconsin really experienced a sputtering labor market around the late '90s, with a peak in June or so of 1998. Employment then bottomed out in March of 2000 and has been growing ever since, albeit at slower rates than the early '90s. ... The early '90s saw employment in the area grow at around 3 percent per year, in 2000 and 2001 it was growing around 2 percent per year, in 2002 it was growing a little over 1 percent per year, and the last few months have seen positive growth, but less then 1 percent. So are we experiencing a jobless recovery? No, not nearly to the same degree the nation is; we are actually seeing job growth, albeit slow. It's still not negative.
Taggert J. Brooks, Assistant Professor of Economics
University of Wisconsin—La Crosse, Wis.

I would say this is true depending upon the time frame you want to consider. My sense is that while growth has slowed, the overall economy in Rochester has continued to experience moderate growth the past year. We still are experiencing strong growth in housing starts. Although I believe the ratio of pre-sold homes is decreasing. We have experienced some job loss, most notably in our manufacturing and technology sectors. This follows state and national trends. The January 2002 to January 2003 employment numbers show employment growth as virtually flat; [they] indicate a job loss of 458 jobs, representing 1/2 of 1 percent. I believe our economy, relatively speaking, remains stronger than that of the nation or state as a whole.

Looking over a longer term, however, June 1999 to June 2003, there are over 6,000 more jobs in the Rochester area. So the answer to your question depends upon the time frame you want to consider. Yes, if we are talking about the last 12 months. My view is that increased globalization of the tech sector will continue to cost us jobs nationally, statewide and locally. This job loss, however, is likely to be offset over the long haul by growth of the service sector.
Gary W. Smith, Director
Rochester Area Economic Development Inc.—Rochester, Minn.

We've done remarkably well during this extensive downturn. Our manufacturers have had their ups and downs. Since last April we've had a significant uptick. As of May 2002, 14,540 were employed in Watertown. As of May 2003, 14,765 were employed. 500 employees were laid off [during the downturn], and we've actually been able to replace them. We've been slowly building up out of this. We have a strong employee base. Companies have weathered this well. Most are manufacturing companies.
Richard Benda, President
Focus Watertown—Watertown, S.D.

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