As if March’s blah weather wasn’t enough to drag the spirits of Brainerd area residents down the jobless headlines in this week’s newspapers would certainly do the trick.
Unemployment in the city of Brainerd jumped by 2 percentage points to a shocking 18.1 percent. In Brainerd’s larger micropolitan area the January jobless rate was 11.8 percent while Crow Wing County’s rate was 10.9 percent. None of the figures were good, particularly when compared with the improving statewide rate of 6.7 percent and the U.S. rate of 9 percent.
It’s clear Minnesota’s outstate regions are not recovering at the same pace as the Twin Cities. That’s disturbing for those of us who live and work here and who would like to see opportunities for our children to do the same, if they so choose.
Winter is always a relatively slow business period in the Brainerd lakes area but these unemployment numbers are among the worst we’ve seen here in decades. These cold, hard statistics aren’t abstract to the people who suddenly find themselves without a steady paycheck and no safety net to rely upon.
Job creation is never an easy task and it’s likely going to take some time before we begin to climb back to where we were before the economy tanked in 2008.
Still, as we suffer from the effects of the Great Recession there are hopeful signs that indicate this region’s resolve to get through the bad times. One of those signs is the generosity of Brainerd lakes area residents who recognize their relative good fortune and are willing to contribute to worthy causes in an unstable economy.
The Brainerd Jaycees Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake and the Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Minnesota on Pelican Lake are just two recent examples of selfless giving. Both are fun events that draw both area residents and out-of-towners to an area that’s primarily considered a summer playground.
The Jaycees’ fishing event received even more publicity than usual with Gov. Mark Dayton taking part and a CBS television news crew on hand to record the festivities. Through money raised at the Extravaganza the Jaycees donated $173,989 to nearly 50 lakes area charities.
The brave souls who took part in the Polar Plunge at Breezy Point, raised about $67,000 for Special Olympics.
Behind the fun of these fundraising events is the commendable generosity of people who were willing to make contributions, either large or small, when they sensed that people who were worse off than they were needed a helping hand. Such actions are an investment in this community and a strong indication of a determination to survives these tough economic times.