Jobs still difficult to find in region
WORTHINGTON -- Anyone paging through the help wanted sections in newspapers and on websites these days is noticing a few trends.
If you have an interest or experience in health care, own your own tractor for over-the-road transport, or have a college degree or certification in teaching, marketing or financial management, there may be work for you in southwest Minnesota.
Earlier this week, the Jobs Now Coalition in Minnesota released information from the latest Job Vacancy Survey, showing that there were 91,000 job seekers in Greater Minnesota competing for 13,000 unfilled jobs in the fourth quarter of 2010. While the greatest unemployment rates tended to be in counties in central and northern Minnesota, southwest Minnesota counties are experiencing some of the highest jobless rates since the 1980s.
According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development website, Nobles County had a jobless rate of 5.9 percent in February 2011, compared with 5.5 percent in Jackson County, 5.6 percent in Rock and Cottonwood counties, 7.3 percent in Murray County and 8.4 percent in Pipestone County.
Cameron Macht, regional market analyst with the Minnesota WorkForce Center's Willmar office, said Friday that despite the higher jobless rates in southwest Minnesota (typically the rate is between 3 and 4 percent), he is starting to see some improvement.
"What we've seen is 2009 was really the peak of a lot of counties in southwest Minnesota," Macht said. "In comparison to two years ago, we're doing better."
Still, a report presented to Nobles County commissioners last week by the Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council shows there are still a lot of people out of work in the region. The PIC spearheads the dislocated worker program, and is working directly with individuals who lost their jobs due to production facilities closing at Farley's & Sathers in Round Lake, Bayliner in Pipestone and Suzlon in Pipestone -- all within the last 17 months.
According to the PIC report, 132 employees of Bayliner are enrolled in the dislocated worker program, and only 60 of them are now employed. In comparison, Farley's & Sathers had 140 people enroll and only 34 have since found employment. At Suzlon, 70 employees who lost their job appear to have had the least success, with just two of them finding employment by the end of February 2011.
While Pipestone County is making a slower recovery in terms of people finding work, Rock, Nobles, Cottonwood and Jackson counties have jobless rates that are lower than both the state and national average.
Macht said part of the reason for the lower jobless rate in southwest Minnesota is its higher concentration in industries that are seeing a quicker recovery from the recession that ended in June 2009.
"Manufacturing has been leading some of the job growth in Minnesota," said Macht, adding that food manufacturing and metal fabrication businesses were less impacted by the recession.
"Agriculture is also a driver, and that industry has done relatively well in recent years," Macht said.
In the last six months, Macht said there has been additional demand statewide within certain industries, from meat packing plants to trucking companies, welding/manufacturing, retail and food service.
"Health care is definitely the industry that has the most openings," he added.
Kevin Honetschlager, site supervisor for the WorkForce Center in Worthington, said there is both training and financial assistance available to people who continue to search for work. The Worthington office, located in the Nobles County Government Center, has a resource room with half a dozen computers that can be used to aid people in job searches. One of the websites utilized to search for jobs is minnesotaworks.net.
"Anyone who comes in to the WorkForce Center would have access to staff (as well)," said Honetschlager. "There are programs out there for people that have lost jobs due to plant closings or business shutdowns. Working through employment counselors, they can look at the jobs in demand in the area and see what they can do to get their skills up to date to qualify for those positions."