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Minnesota-U.S. Unemployment Gap Reaches Historic Level

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April's 2.7-point unemployment rate difference in Minnesota's favor vis-à-vis the national average is the largest in decades

Thursday's announcement by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development that the Gopher State's seasonally adjusted jobless rate for April had fallen by one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.2 percent may seem like only marginally good news for Minnesotans.

However, the real story behind the numbers is best seen through the lens of history.

A Smart Politics analysis of available Bureau of Labor Statistics data dating back to January 1976, finds that the 2.7-point difference between the national unemployment rate (9.9 percent) and Minnesota's rate (7.2 percent) is the largest on record in the Gopher State's favor.

The previous mark was 2.6 points, reached on two occasions, in June 1992 and December 2009.

In June 1992, the national jobless rate was 7.8 points while Minnesota's was 5.2 points. Last December, the national rate was 10.0 points, while Minnesota's was 7.4 points.

To put into perspective just how much the Gopher State's job situation has been historically better than that of the country overall, a Smart Politics analysis finds Minnesota's unemployment rate to have been lower than the national average for 401 of the last 412 months, or 97.3 percent of the time since 1976.

Minnesota's jobless rate has been equal to the national rate eight times (1.9 percent) and higher than the national average for only three months (0.7 percent) - in March, April, and May of 2007 (at just +0.1-point higher each time).

Minnesota's jobless rate has been at least 2.0 points less than the national average for 64 of the past 412 months dating back to January 1976.

By comparison, Wisconsin's jobless rate has been at least 2.0 points lower than the national average in just 48 months since 1976, and lower overall in only 334 of the last 412 months, or 81.1 percent of the time.

Wisconsin has had the same unemployment rate as the nation in 22 months (5.3 percent) and has been higher than the national average in 56 of the last 412 months (13.6 percent) - or more than 18 times that of the Gopher State.

Wisconsin's unemployment rate for April fell from 8.8 to 8.5 percent.

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Political Crumbs

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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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