Jobless Claims Rate of Increase Slowed Across Upper Midwest in February

Preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment data for the month of February 2009 was released on Wednesday and Thursday for three Upper Midwestern states, with each showing a reduction in the rate of growth of jobless claims.

While unemployment rates continued to rise in all three states since January, each state was able to slow down the record month-to-month growth in its respective unemployment rolls that drew headlines in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin for the December 2008 to January 2009 period.

The current jobless rate now rests at 8.1 percent in Minnesota, 7.7 percent in Wisconsin, and 4.6 percent in South Dakota. The month-to-month rate of increase dropped 0.3 points in Minnesota, 0.4 points in Wisconsin, and 0.5 points in South Dakota.

Month-to-Month Percentage Point Unemployment Rate Increase in Upper Midwest

State
Dec 2008 – Jan 2009
Jan 2009 – Feb 2009
Change in rate of increase
Minnesota
0.9*
0.6
-0.3
South Dakota
0.7
0.2
-0.5
Wisconsin
1.1
0.7
-0.4

* Note: January’s jobless rate of 7.5 percent in Minnesota is 0.1 point less than last month’s DEED estimate.

The month-to-month percentage increase in unemployment slowed as well – from 13.6 percent to 8.0 percent in Minnesota, 18.6 percent to 10.0 percent in Wisconsin, and 18.9 percent to 4.5 percent in South Dakota.

Overall, the trendlines are decidedly bleaker for the Gopher State than those of its neighbors to the east and west, according to a Smart Politics analysis of data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Minnesota has had a higher unemployment rate than South Dakota in every month this decade. The two states last shared the same jobless rate (at 2.9 percent) in August 1999. South Dakota has had a higher rate of unemployment than Minnesota in just 15 of the last 398 months, dating back to 1976 (all within a 16-month stretch, January through August 1998, and October 1998 through April 1999).

Since January 2000, Minnesota has averaged a 1.2-point higher unemployment rate than South Dakota. However, since January 2008, that difference has more than doubled to 2.5 points.

But the trend in Minnesota vis-à-vis Wisconsin is even more sobering for the Gopher State.

Minnesota had a lower jobless rate than Wisconsin for more than 10 years, at 124 consecutive months, from May 1997 through August 2007. For the last 18 months, however, that trend has reversed, with Minnesota enduring a higher unemployment rate than its neighbor to the east from September 2007 through February 2009 (averaging 0.6 points higher per month).

This recent 18-month period runs counter to the overall trend during the past three decades. Since 1976, Wisconsin’s jobless claims rate was higher than that of Minnesota in 278 of 398 months (69.8 percent), with Minnesota have the higher rate in just 103 of these months (25.9 percent), and the two states sharing the same rate in the 17 remaining months (4.3 percent). Minnesota has averaged a 0.5-point lower unemployment rate than Wisconsin over the past 33+ years.

February unemployment numbers will be released in the coming weeks for Iowa and North Dakota.

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