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Minnesota and Upper Midwest Being Spared the Worst of US Job Loss Crisis

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While Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwestern states are still in the midst of enduring some of the largest unemployment rates each has endured for many years, most of the region is historically doing quite well on the employment front when compared to the situation of the country as a whole. In fact, some states in the region are experiencing the lowest jobless rate vis-à-vis the national average that they have seen in decades.

Collectively, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of Minnesota (-0.8 points), Iowa (-3.8), Wisconsin (-0.3), South Dakota (-4.1), and North Dakota (-4.9) are 13.9 points below the national average of 8.9 percent. This is the largest net difference, in the region's favor, against the national average in more than 16 years, dating back to February 1993.

In fact, a Smart Politics analysis finds the -13.9-point cumulative differential is the 26th largest regional spread against the nationwide unemployment rate, dating back to available Bureau of Labor Statistics data since January 1976.

The only periods that yielded a collectively larger net difference against the national average were a 14-month stretch from January 1976 to February 1977, an 8-month stretch from February through September 1992, and a 3-month stretch from December 1992 to February 1993.

The region as a whole has never had a collective higher rate of unemployment than the national average during this three decade plus time span, with the closest difference being a net -2.2 points lower in January 1986.

This is not to suggest, of course, that the economic picture is rosy per se in the Upper Midwest. Each state has recently experienced its largest jobless rate in decades, and April 2009's numbers still reveals sobering data.

For example, Wisconsin - the only state in the region to suffer a rate increase in April - now has its highest unemployment rate since November 1983.

And, even with slight decreases in the jobless rate in the other four states:

· Minnesota's 8.1 percent rate is the 2nd highest since May 1983
· South Dakota's 4.8 percent rate is the 2nd highest since March 1986
· Iowa's 5.1 percent rate is the 2nd highest since December 1987
· North Dakota's 4.0 percent rate is the 3rd highest since January 1994

Still, compared to their historical record against employment trends of the nation as a whole, many states in the region are seeing a comparatively stable employment situation:

· Iowa's jobless rate is now 3.8 points lower than that of the country overall - tied for the largest differential on record since 1976 (the state also had a 3.8-point lower rate than the nation in January 1976, November 1976, and December 1976).

· North Dakota's jobless rate is now a record 4.9 points below that of the nation - breaking a record dating back over 33 years to January 1976.

· South Dakota's unemployment rate is now 4.1 percentage points lower than that of the nation - the 27th largest monthly differential between the country's unemployment rate and that of South Dakota, dating back 400 months to January 1976.

· Minnesota's unemployment rate is now 0.8 points lower than the national rate -which is tied for the second largest negative differential dating back 40 months to December 2005.

Only Wisconsin continued to see its numbers heading in the wrong direction in April - enduring rising unemployment rates for a record 7th straight month.

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Political Crumbs

Evolving?

When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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