Fewer workers contribute to drop in area unemployment ratePublished 10:52am Thursday, October 25, 2012
Otter Tail County’s unemployment rate of 4.6 percent in September was a slight decrease compared to last year, when it was 5.0 percent.
However, the decrease isn’t necessarily good news.
The rate is based on 1,443 workers registered as unemployed, with 30,019 employed and a labor force of 31,462. In September 2011, there were more county residents in the labor force (31,885), more employed (30,277) and more unemployed workers (1,608).
According to Economic Improvement Commission Executive Director Harold Stanislawski, the drop in unemployment rate is not primarily due to residents leaving the county to find work.
“I don’t think we’re losing massive amounts of people,” he said. “That wouldn’t be the reason unemployment is going down.”
The trend was similar in Fergus Falls, which fell to a rate of 5.2 percent compared to 5.5 percent in September 2011. The rate was based on a smaller labor force (7,258 in September 2012 compared to 7,344 in September 2011) and slightly fewer jobs (6,883 in September 2012 compared to 6,942 in September 2011).
“I think we’re in good shape,” said Stanislawski. “I think it’s a healthy number. It shows that we still have a supply of labor and probably skilled labor.”
Both Fergus Falls and Otter Tail County’s September rates were better than the state rate of 5.8 percent, and the national rate of 7.8 percent.
“I think it’s a good place to be right now in this economy,” Stanislawski said.
Fergus Falls also fared better in September than most nearby cities, including Bemidji (9.5 percent), Brainerd (9 percent), Alexandria (6 percent) and St. Cloud (5.4 percent). Willmar’s rate was similar at 5.2 percent, and Moorhead’s was at 3.2 percent.
The Department of Employment and Economic Development said Thursday that employers added a net 5,900 jobs last month. Figures for August were also revised upward to reflect a less severe drop-off that month. Over the past year, officials say there has been a growth of 34,700 net jobs.
Education and health services were the big gainers and the leisure and hospitality sector was also strong. Government entities, manufacturers and information sectors reported job losses.
Stanislawski said it is important to note that in counties like Otter Tail, these numbers are not particularly accurate. Metropolitan areas are tracked much more closely, but local numbers are still carry some value.
“It’s something to look at, but it’s not an exact science,” he said.