Southwest Minnesota's unemployment rate plunged to 3.0 percent in September 2015, the lowest September rate recorded in the region since 2000. The region's unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percent over the past month and was down 1.0 percent compared to September 2013, when it matched pre-recession levels.
Much of the decline is due to the ongoing contraction of the labor force in the 23-county planning region, which dropped to 220,273 available workers in September 2015, the lowest number of workers reported so far this year. The 6,638 unemployed workers was also the smallest number reported so far this year, leading to the low unemployment rate. While the region saw a drop of 600 unemployed workers from the prior month, the number of employed workers essentially held steady at 213,635 workers.
Fifteen of the 23 counties had a lower unemployment rate than the state in September, with the lowest rate in the entire state still located in Rock County at 1.7 percent. Lincoln, Pipestone, Lyon, Nicollet, and Blue Earth counties also were ranked among the 10 lowest rates in the state, at 2.6 percent or lower. Cottonwood County saw the highest rate in the region, at 5.3 percent.
Unemployment rates dipped to 3.3 percent in Southwest Minnesota in August of 2015, just below the state rate of 3.5 percent. That was a 0.4 percent decline from July's unemployment rate, and 0.1 percent below the region's rate in August last year. Southwest Minnesota has just over 221,000 available workers in the labor force, with just 7,235 unemployed workers actively seeking work. Those were both declines from the previous month, though the labor force grew over the past year.
At 2.9 percent in August, Economic Development Region (EDR) 8 reported the lowest unemployment rate of the 13 regions in the state, and was home to five of the lowest county rates in the state. Rock County still has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.0 percent, followed by Lincoln (2.4%), Pipestone (2.4%), and Lyon (2.6%) in the top 5 and Nobles County (2.7%) in 9th place. EDR 9 had a 3.3 percent unemployment rate, led by Nicollet (2.6%) and Blue Earth County (3.0%); while EDR 6W had the highest rates in the planning area at 3.9 percent, due to relatively high rates in Swift (4.5%) and Lac qui Parle County (4.1%).
Southwest Minnesota continued to exhibit low unemployment rates, with the region's rate dipping to 3.7 percent in July of 2015, just below the statewide rate of 3.8 percent. Rates declined over the past month and in comparison to the prior year, in each case falling 0.2 percent.
Region 6W had the highest unemployment rates in the region and actually saw an increase in unemployment rate compared to July of 2014. Rates were lowest and falling in Region 8, which saw a 0.5 percent decline compared to one year prior. Region 9's rate evened out at 3.7 percent, keeping it in line with the state's rate.
Rock County still has the lowest unemployment rate in the region and the entire state, falling again to 2.2 percent in July of 2015. Four of the next five lowest county unemployment rates are also located in the region, in Pipestone (2.8%), Lincoln (2.9%), Nicollet (2.9%), and Lyon County (3.0%). Rates were also among the 20 lowest in Nobles (3.2%), Blue Earth (3.3%), Jackson (3.4%), and Murray (3.5%). The highest rates in the region were found in Swift (7.3%), which now has the third highest rate in the state, Watonwan (4.7%), and Waseca (4.5%), which were both in the top 25.
Southwest Minnesota's unemployment rate matched the state rate at 3.9 percent in June of 2015, marking the region's lowest rate in June since the summer of 2006. The 9 counties of Economic Development Region 8 had the lowest rates at 3.6 percent, while the 5 counties of Economic Development Region 6W had the highest rates at 4.9 percent. The 9 counties in Economic Development Region 9, like the region as a whole, matched the state rate of 3.9 percent in June of 2015.
Despite being home to just 227,300 (7.5 percent) of the more than 3 million available workers in the state, Southwest Minnesota accounted for more than 60 percent of the state's labor force growth in the past month. The region gained just over 4,400 workers between May and June, while the state as a whole added just over 7,000 workers. This huge jump in workers was accompanied by an increase of about 900 unemployed workers, with the region having 8,928 people who were actively seeking work in June.
Southwest Minnesota is home to five of the six lowest county unemployment rates in the state led by Rock County at 2.3 percent, followed by Pipestone (2.8 percent), Lincoln (3.1 percent), Lyon (3.1 percent), and Nicollet counties (3.1 percent) in third through sixth place, respectively. The region is also home to the county with the highest unemployment rate in the state, as Swift County's rate jumped to 8.2 percent in June. Rates were also among the top 20 in the state in Cottonwood (5.1 percent), Jackson (5.0 percent), and Martin County (4.9 percent).