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Unemployment rate inches up in November

Local unemployment numbers released Tuesday show a slight increase from October, but there are signs the economy in Bemidji and Beltrami County is improving.

The unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in Bemidji and 7 percent in Beltrami County for November, according to statistics from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Those numbers are up from October's unemployment rates of 9.1 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively. The stretch marks the first back-to-back months in which the unemployment dipped below 10 percent since the nationwide recession hit in 2008.

The latest local numbers aren't seasonally adjusted, while Minnesota's 5.9 percent unemployment rate for November, the lowest since October 2008, is seasonally adjusted to account for layoffs that typically occur as winter approaches.

The national unemployment rate for November was 8.6 percent.

In Bemidji, this past October marked the first time unemployment dipped below 10 percent in a year, and just the second time since October 2008.

Still, a lot of people remain on the job hunt, said Roger Hellquist, general manager at Search Resources of Bemidji.

"We see a lot of people looking, a lot of people frustrated not being able to find something that fits their skill set," Hellquist said Tuesday.

Many of the jobs that are filling are workers who are underemployed.

"The long-term solution is you'd like to see more industry that employs the middle class," said Hellquist, whose office works with up to 100 businesses each year to fill openings. Search Resources finds employment, sometimes temporary, for up to 500 people each year.

"Definitely what we need is industry, manufacturing jobs," Hellquist said. "Pretty much all of America can say that. So many jobs have moved offshore."

Unemployment numbers tend to increase as the weather cools, in large part to a slowdown in construction and tourism, said Nate Dorr, a DEED regional analyst for 26 northwest Minnesota counties.

A dry, relatively mild fall helped keep some people employed longer, but Dorr said unemployment rates usually go up in December, January and February.

And despite Bemidji serving as a regional hub, the unemployment rate is higher in the city compared to the county because many professionals, who tend to have jobs requiring advanced degrees, live in Bemidji's "suburbs," or areas outside city limits, Dorr said.

The city tends to attract people who can afford lower priced homes or an apartment, and those people also tend to have less education, he said.

The discrepancy between county and city unemployment rates may soon change, becoming more similar, once Bemidji annexes Northern and Bemidji townships, Dorr said.

In November, education and health services led all sectors across Minnesota, gaining 1,300 jobs, while logging and mining held steady, DEED reported.

The largest job losses last month were in leisure and hospitality (4,400 jobs lost), government (4,000), construction (1,600), manufacturing (1,200) and professional and business services (1,100).

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

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