Jobs, wealth, and despair

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by Lee Egerstrom | June 19th, 2009 • The week’s schedule of official government economic reports has ended with more confusion than substance, and readers should remember that government numbers don’t feed the family.

Minnesota job losses in May were not as dramatic as in April, but those number don’t show April and March’s unemployed being called back to work. Nationally, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits fell by nearly 150,000, but economists warned that drop was the result of people exhausting their benefits, ceasing to be an unemployment statistic.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development released state unemployment data that showed a May job loss of 1,600 — the smallest monthly decline since August. Helping offset the losses in most sectors was increased hiring in construction and the leisure and hospitality industry. The former can be attributed to government stimulus funds and state transportation program funds; the latter needs further study if it means anything other than a seasonally adjusted increase for Minnesota resorts and entertainment venues.

So, there is partial good news mixed with more bad economic news in the state. And there was yet another report, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, that may signal greater problems ahead.

Minnesota’s personal wealth declined by 0.95 percent in the first quarter of this year, the seventh greatest decline among U.S. states. That BEA index merely measures quarterly performance in percentages, not dollars, so any sizable change in major industry sectors distorts actual impact on people. Thus, retreating prices in natural resources, including agriculture, put Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa ahead of Minnesota with higher rates of falling personal income.

Ouch. Agriculture has been a strong economic performer in most areas of Minnesota. The BEA data suggest this strength make be developing weak ankles.

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