Through April 25, about 46,000 applications for Unemployment Insurance (UI) had been filed by residents of Northwest Minnesota, according to data released by the Department of Employment and Economic Development. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is a lot. For perspective, in the entire year of 2019, the region saw a total of just 22,820 UI claims. In 2009, during the peak of the Great Recession, the region suffered 49,841 UI claims for the year.

Since Northwest Minnesota had about 296,000 people in the labor force in March of 2020, that means about 15 percent of workers in the region had filed a claim from the middle of March to the end of April. After an initial surge where over 10 percent of workers had already filed a claim by April 7, Northwest has actually seen the slowest increase in claims among the six planning regions in the state since then.

Northwest is home to five of the 10 counties with the lowest share of UI claims as a percent of the total labor force; but also five of the top 10. With just 5.6 percent of the labor force filing a claim, Clay County has the lowest percentage of UI applications, followed by Wilkin County in second. Traverse, Kittson, and Stevens ranked fifth, sixth, and seventh overall.

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