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County’s unemployment rate up from last year

Becker County’s unemployment rate has increased over last year’s numbers.

On the roller coaster of unemployment statistics, Becker County is currently slightly up. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, as of January, Becker County’s unemployment rate is at 8.4 percent – up from 7.6 in January of 2012 and 9.5 percent two years ago.

     Those rates are not seasonally adjusted, and should be compared to the not seasonally adjusted statewide and national rates, which were at 6.7 percent and 8.5 percent respectively in January.

     According to the report, 42 jobs were lost in Becker County over the year, while there were 103 additional job seekers.

     But according to the report, that doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs out there to be had, but rather there is a hiring “mismatch,” meaning there aren’t enough people qualified to do the jobs where there are openings.  These sectors include nursing, select production occupations and industrial engineering.

     In a study conducted by the department, employers in these three fields “frequently said that the problem was a lack of supply (of skilled employees in manufacturing) because of general disinterest in production work—i.e., an “image problem.”

     In Becker County, filling these jobs is becoming even more crucial as manufacturing continues to grow, according to Retzer.

     “Some segments within manufacturing are up more significantly than others depending on who their customers are and what they’re requesting, but manufacturing as a whole continues to grow locally,” he said.

     Although production is up, Retzer says manufacturers in the area proceed with cautious optimism.  “What’s happening is these factories are not maintaining a lot of inventory … either finished product or raw material … they don’t keep a lot of extras in stock.  They’re still keeping everything tightened up,” said Retzer. “And another thing we see they’re still doing is, instead of maintaining a steady workforce throughout the year, they are using temporary staffing agencies and they’re raising and lowering their workforce with what their demand is at that time.”

     Retzer says health care in Becker County also continues to grow, but again, requires a certain skill set. He says workers in all sectors had better be prepared to dive into technology, particularly in areas like health care.

      “The reason is, people are now striving to do more with less, and that means incorporating technology, automation and trying to find ways to be more efficient,” said Retzer, who says formal education isn’t necessarily required to meet this demand, just a willingness to be taught the ins and outs of computer technology.

     According to Retzer, local builders are also being kept busy these days.  “The feds have continued to hold down interest rates, and I think that’s kind of what’s kept our country from sliding because when you can borrow money for three to four percent, that helps to be a continuing shining light for us,” said Retzer, who also says there’s a flip side to government actions.

     He believes that while the sequestering has not affected jobs locally yet, that could be yet to come.  “I think in the next several quarters we will start to see educators take a hit, anybody who works with federal programs, state government or local government, social work providers, local county workers … people who are running programs that receive federal assistance,” said Retzer.

                For a breakdown of information on unemployment issues in Minnesota and Becker County, log on to