In 2012, Brainerd’s unemployment rate did something it hadn’t been able to accomplish since December of 2007.
In 54 months, the city’s jobless rate dropped below double-digits just four times, three times in 2008 and once in 2011.
But in June of 2012 that changed. Brainerd’s jobless rate, which encompasses the city and environs in the same ZIP code, dropped below 10 percent and stayed there.
It fluctuated between 9.6 percent to 9.4 percent between June and October. The number of unemployed doesn’t take into account the number of people who have given up looking for work.
Brainerd’s jobless rate is reported as part of the large cities in the state, which are those with populations of 10,000 or more. There are 66 cities on the list.
Brainerd had perennially been at the top of the list for the highest unemployment in the state before recently giving that title to Bemidji.
As of October, Bemidji held the dubious top position but not by much. Bemidji’s jobless rate was 9.5 percent. Brainerd’s was 9.4 percent.
Just two other large Minnesota cities had jobless rates even in the same realm — Grand Rapids at 7.7 percent, Cloquet at 7.3 percent, Faribault at 7 percent and Hibbing at 6.9 percent.
But most of the state’s large cities have jobless rates well below the Brainerd area. Many cities are in the 4 percent and 5 percent range with the lowest jobless rate, as of October’s latest numbers, found in Moorhead at 3 percent. Wausau Paper announced layoffs of 48 hourly and seven salary positions.
But a bright spot came with an increase in manufacturing, such as Clow Stamping’s expansion in Merrifield. The company laid off 70 workers in 2008, reducing its workforce to 260. By 2012, Clow was in its third year of growth employing 355 people plus 19 full-time temporary workers. ATEK Manufacturing also completed an expansion in Brainerd, bringing jobs to the city.
Another 150 jobs were created with Olive Garden’s addition. Costco hired between 175-200 people.