While Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwestern states are still in the midst of enduring some of the largest unemployment rates each has endured for many years, most of the region is historically doing quite well on the employment front when compared to the situation of the country as a whole. In fact, some states in the region are experiencing the lowest jobless rate vis-à-vis the national average that they have seen in decades.

Collectively, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of Minnesota (-0.8 points), Iowa (-3.8), Wisconsin (-0.3), South Dakota (-4.1), and North Dakota (-4.9) are 13.9 points below the national average of 8.9 percent. This is the largest net difference, in the region’s favor, against the national average in more than 16 years, dating back to February 1993.

In fact, a Smart Politics analysis finds the -13.9-point cumulative differential is the 26th largest regional spread against the nationwide unemployment rate, dating back to available Bureau of Labor Statistics data since January 1976.

The only periods that yielded a collectively larger net difference against the national average were a 14-month stretch from January 1976 to February 1977, an 8-month stretch from February through September 1992, and a 3-month stretch from December 1992 to February 1993.

The region as a whole has never had a collective higher rate of unemployment than the national average during this three decade plus time span, with the closest difference being a net -2.2 points lower in January 1986.

This is not to suggest, of course, that the economic picture is rosy per se in the Upper Midwest. Each state has recently experienced its largest jobless rate in decades, and April 2009’s numbers still reveals sobering data.

For example, Wisconsin – the only state in the region to suffer a rate increase in April – now has its highest unemployment rate since November 1983.

And, even with slight decreases in the jobless rate in the other four states:

· Minnesota’s 8.1 percent rate is the 2nd highest since May 1983
· South Dakota’s 4.8 percent rate is the 2nd highest since March 1986
· Iowa’s 5.1 percent rate is the 2nd highest since December 1987
· North Dakota’s 4.0 percent rate is the 3rd highest since January 1994

Still, compared to their historical record against employment trends of the nation as a whole, many states in the region are seeing a comparatively stable employment situation:

· Iowa’s jobless rate is now 3.8 points lower than that of the country overall – tied for the largest differential on record since 1976 (the state also had a 3.8-point lower rate than the nation in January 1976, November 1976, and December 1976).

· North Dakota’s jobless rate is now a record 4.9 points below that of the nation – breaking a record dating back over 33 years to January 1976.

· South Dakota’s unemployment rate is now 4.1 percentage points lower than that of the nation – the 27th largest monthly differential between the country’s unemployment rate and that of South Dakota, dating back 400 months to January 1976.

· Minnesota’s unemployment rate is now 0.8 points lower than the national rate -which is tied for the second largest negative differential dating back 40 months to December 2005.

Only Wisconsin continued to see its numbers heading in the wrong direction in April – enduring rising unemployment rates for a record 7th straight month.

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