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County unemployment crests at 13.3 percent

Wadena County's unemployment rate reached 13.3 percent in January, according to a social services report. The number is a significant increase over recent January unemployment numbers that ranged from 10 percent in 2006 to 10.8 percent in 2008.

Paul Sailer, the county's human services director, pointed out the lowest unemployment number in the area was found in Moorhead in Clay County at 6.3 percent. Cass and Morrison counties were tied for the highest rate at 14.7 percent.

Social services recently began compiling recession statistics examining four years of numbers on a monthly basis.

"These public assistance programs are the best indicator[s] of how the recession is hitting the county," Sailer said.

A new number Sailer plans to add to the recession report is the county's total number of unduplicated cases. The number of cases totaled 1,495 in 2006 and rose to 1,693 by February of this year.

"So almost a 200 increase in cases for the staff in that four-year period," he said.

Food support increased from 380 households in February 2006 to 581 households in February of this year. Medical Assistance and General Assistance Medical Care cases increased from 1,478 cases four years ago to 1,612 cases in February.

One area is seeing a decrease from those who used it in 2006. The number of households using Minnesota Family Investment Program and the Diversionary Work Program declined from 125 in February 2006 to 110 in 2009.

Sailer said part of the reason for the decrease is the extension of unemployment benefits.

"If there's someone who was unemployed who is a single head of household that is keeping them from falling back on this program," he said.

Plus, there are not as many applicants for MFIP, he said, so that's good. The program has a 60-month cap.

The amount spent on family emergency assistance in 2006 totaled $25,437. The county has spent $3,013 so far this year.

"So nothing real dramatic there," Sailer said.

Sailer also pointed out numbers that have increased in the past four months.

The number of total unduplicated cases rose from 1,619 in November 2008 to 1,693 this February. Food support rose from 519 households in November 2008 to 581 households in February. Medical Assistance and General Assistance Medical Care cases rose from 1,567 cases last November to 1,612 cases in February.