New unemployment data released this week for the month of July in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin provides largely good news on the labor force front in the Upper Midwest.
In Minnesota, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 8.4 percent in June to 8.1 percent in July. Minnesota's jobless rate is now 1.3 points lower than the national average - the largest relative differential in the Gopher State's favor in nearly six years (September 2003).
In South Dakota, the jobless rate fell 0.2 points from 5.1 to 4.9 percent. The 3.9 percent drop in unemployment was the largest in the Mount Rushmore State in more than five years, when jobless claims decreased by 5.4 percent from March (3.7 percent) to April (3.5 percent) 2004.
South Dakota's unemployment rate is now 4.5 points lower than the rest of the nation - the largest such difference in 26 years. (In June 1983 South Dakota's rate of 5.2 percent was 4.9 points lower than the national average of 10.1 percent).
While Wisconsin's July unemployment rate did not decrease, flattening out at June's 9.0 percent rate, it did put an end to a stretch of nine consecutive months of increasing jobless claims in the Badger State. From September 2008 through June 2009 Wisconsin's seasonally adjusted rate rose from 4.7 to 9.0 percent, or an increase of 91.5 percent.
Wisconsin's unemployment rate is still up 95.7 percent from one year ago, compared to 58.1 percent in South Dakota, and 50.0 percent in Minnesota.
While July's numbers suggest the Upper Midwestern economy may be heading in the right direction, one only needs to look back a few months to realize a single month of labor force data does not necessarily foreshadow trend directionality.
In April 2009, unemployment dropped by 0.2 points in Minnesota, 0.2 points in North Dakota, 0.1 points in South Dakota, and 0.1 points in Iowa. Unemployment subsequently increased over the next two months by 1.1 points in Iowa, 0.4 points in Minnesota, 0.3 points in South Dakota, and 0.2 points in North Dakota.
The economy and jobs will likely remain first-tier issues in the high profile open gubernatorial races to be held in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota in 2010.
July unemployment numbers for Iowa and North Dakota will be released later this month.
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