Minnesota joblessness jumps to 8.1% in 1st month of pandemic

Published 3:30 pm Thursday, May 21, 2020

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ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s unemployment rate for April jumped to 8.1%, a loss of nearly 360,000 jobs in the first full month that the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, the Department of Employment and Economic Development reported Thursday.

The number of unemployed Minnesotans increased by 160,627 to a total of 249,453 from March to April, according to the department’s monthly report. Minnesota’s unemployment rate was 2.9% in March. The U.S. jobless rate rose from 4.4% to 14.7%.

The new jobless numbers were way below the nearly 700,000 applications for unemployment insurance that the department has received since March 16, when Gov. Tim Walz ordered bars and restaurants to close, triggering Minnesota’s first big wave of layoffs.

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There are several reasons why the unemployment insurance data doesn’t match the jobless rate data, the department said. A key reason is that workers can get benefits if their hours have been cut but they’re still working. Those workers aren’t counted as unemployed in the official rate.

Another is the unemployment rate is based heavily on a monthly survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that asks about 900 households in Minnesota about their work and job-seeking status. The period tracked by the survey ended in mid-April. Minnesotans submitted over 460,000 jobless benefit applications from March 16 to April 15.