The October 2008 unemployment numbers released late last week by Dan McElroy, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, reveals the Gopher State is enduring its worst jobless trend in more than two decades.

October’s 6.0 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate marks the second time out of the last three months that Minnesota’s jobless numbers have reached 6 percent (August’s rate was 6.2 percent while September’s was 5.9 percent).

Prior to August 2008, Minnesota had not endured a single month with a 6 percent unemployment rate since early 1986 – when the Gopher State had a 6.0 percent seasonally adjusted jobless rate in January and February of that year. Minnesota’s current 5.3 percent average unemployment rate for 2008 is also the highest yearly average since 1986 (5.6 percent).

Minnesota’s highest unemployment rate since the mid-1970s occurred during the Reagan recession of 1982. In November of that year the jobless rate in the Gopher State peaked at 9.0 percent.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate is still less than the national average, however, which hit 6.5 percent in October – its highest level since March 1994.

However, Minnesota currently has a much higher seasonally adjusted jobless rate than neighboring Wisconsin (5.1 percent), Iowa (4.4 percent), South Dakota (3.3 percent), and North Dakota (3.4 percent).

Still, despite presiding over the state during these trying economic times, Governor Tim Pawlenty’s approval rating has impressively sustained itself in the mid-50s. Recent polls, conducted by the Humphrey Institute / Minnesota Public Radio (October 24-28) and SurveyUSA (October 17-19), found 60 percent and 55 percent of Minnesotans approving of Pawlenty’s job performance respectively. Pawlenty’s approval rating has not dipped below 50 percent since early November 2006, shortly after his reelection.

Minnesota Unemployment Rate, 1976-2008

Year
Percentage
2008*
5.3
2007
4.6
2006
4.1
2005
4.2
2004
4.6
2003
4.9
2002
4.5
2001
3.9
2000
3.1
1999
2.8
1998
2.7
1997
3.3
1996
3.9
1995
3.7
1994
4.1
1993
4.9
1992
5.1
1991
5.2
1990
4.8
1989
4.3
1988
4.3
1987
5.1
1986
5.6
1985
6.0
1984
6.3
1983
8.0
1982
8.1
1981
5.7
1980
5.9
1979
4.3
1978
4.0
1977
5.3
1976
5.9

* Through October 2008.

Source: Compiled from Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.