The Potluck

Minnesota’s unemployment rate tops 8%

By: - May 21, 2020 1:51 pm

A nail salon, as pictured on May 20, 2020, one of many Minnesota businesses shuttered at the time as part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer

Minnesota’s unemployment rate rose to just over 8% in April, up from 2.9% the month before, as workers face sweeping job cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

That means 249,453 Minnesotans were jobless in April, according to data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The new figures are the first look at a full month of the pandemic’s effects on Minnesotans’ employment status, since restrictions aimed at slowing the virus’ spread went into effect here in mid-March..

Minnesota lost 359,800 jobs between March and April, a decline of about 12%. The number of payroll positions fell in every industry since last April, except mining. The leisure and hospitality industry was the hardest hit, with a 55% decline in jobs compared to April 2019.

More than 695,000 Minnesotans applied for unemployment benefits between mid-March — when the state expanded its program to include pandemic-related job loss — and May 20, representing more than 20% of the state’s workforce. The number of applicants doesn’t match the unemployment rate because people can receive benefits if their hours have been cut or they’re furloughed, while the unemployment rate only counts people who are not working.

Women, Black Minnesotans and young people have been hit hardest by job loss, according to a Minnesota Reformer analysis of unemployment benefit application data, raising concerns that the current crisis could worsen Minnesota’s existing economic disparities.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate is below the national rate, which increased from 4.4% in March to 14.7% in April, according to DEED.

The unemployment figure does not include Minnesotans who have given up looking and left the labor force altogether.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.