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County unemployment back in double digits

After dropping for the past couple months, unemployment in Wadena County rose from 9.8 percent in May to 10.3 percent in June.

"That struck me as a little unusual because it is summer," said Paul Sailer, the county's human services director. "I would expect it to stay the same or go down."

Seasonal jobs such as construction work usually result in lower unemployment in the summer.

The uptick is reflected in the state unemployment numbers, Sailer told the Wadena County Social Services Board. Minnesota's unemployment rate went from 7.8 percent in May to 8.4 percent in June. National unemployment was reported at 9.5 percent the previous week, he said.

"I hope we start seeing a drop because by fall these numbers are going to start climbing ... more than they are," Sailer said.

Department of Employment and Economic Development Regional Labor Market Analyst Nathan Dorr isn't sure he has a good explanation, he said in an e-mail, since DEED expected the unemployment rate would follow seasonal trends and keep decreasing through September.

Layoffs from the school year may be a factor, he said. The manufacturing and construction industry has experienced the greatest job losses this year, and that seems to be continuing.

However, commercial road and bridge construction is getting a boost locally by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, Dorr said. This trend is erratic, though. He thinks greater losses nationwide have factored into the local unemployment rate.

"Wadena County is on the same track as almost every other county I've seen, where it's gone back up in June," he said about the unemployment rate.

Wadena County unemployment claims were at 107 in June, which was down from 110 in June 2008 and yet up from 71 in May 2009, according to Dorr. There were 134 claims in April 2009.

Wadena County unemployment reached its highest point this year in March with a rate of 13.6 percent. The highest unemployment rate in Otter Tail County this year was 10.8 percent in February. Otter Tail's unemployment also increased slightly from 7 percent in May to 7.4 percent in June.

June unemployment was 4.9 percent in Clay County, 8.8 percent in Becker County, 9.4 percent in Hubbard County and 9.1 percent in Todd County.

Sailer said things seemed a little better to the west of Wadena County.

Recession impact

Food stamp use has steadily increased this year from 554 households served in January to 608 households served in June. Food support for households has increased 58 percent since June 2006. During the past year alone the number of households receiving food support climbed 27 percent.

Medical programs have also continued to rise, Sailer said. Medical Assistance and General Assistance Medical Care rose from 1,443 households in June 2006 to 1,654 households in June 2009.

The Minnesota Family Investment Program and the emergency assistance program remain fairly stable, he said.

Wadena County Social Services is tracking the effect of the recession on some of its key programs with a report comparing monthly statistics over four years.