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April jobs numbers illustrate COVID-19’s impact in Minnesota

By Sean O'Neil
Director, Economic Research, Minnesota Chamber Foundation

Data provided by the Minnesota Chamber Foundation’s Center for Economic Research

New employment data released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) show the devastating impact that COVID-19 has wrought on Minnesota’s economy since March. The Minnesota Chamber Foundation analyzed the data to understand how the downturn is taking shape in the state, and what this might mean for Minnesota’s future recovery. Here are some takeaways illustrating the depth and shape of the impact so far. 

The depth of job losses this April is unparalleled in Minnesota’s recent history. These new employment numbers show the historic nature of the downturn, with employment falling far below the trough of any recession since 1950. Minnesota employment dropped 13.2% in April compared to the same period last year.

Employment 1

While employment declined in nearly every sector of the state’s economy, losses were concentrated in sectors most vulnerable to voluntary and mandated social distancing measures. Accommodation/food services, health care/social assistance, and retail topped the list for total employment losses. However, arts/entertainment/recreation, accommodation/food service and educational services lost the largest share of jobs relative to their industry’s respective size. A more detailed look shows that industries like full-service restaurants lost nearly three quarters of employment compared to the same time last year, a figure unthinkable before the COVID-19 pandemic. Minnesotans can hope that many of these losses are short-term in nature, but the future remains uncertain as public health measures and consumer confidence will dictate the speed of recovery in those sectors.

Employment 2


Employment 3


Relative to the U.S. as a whole, Minnesota absorbed the economic shock somewhat less severely. As bad as the downturn has been, things could be even worse for the state. Minnesota’s diverse economic structure and below-average share of jobs in the hardest hit industries help explain why Minnesota has fared better than some states like Nevada, Hawaii and Michigan which have seen soaring unemployment rates this spring. Minnesota’s most concentrated industries like manufacturing, corporate headquarters, finance and insurance, and health care have been shielded from the worst of the early COVID-19 impacts. As of April, Minnesota’s unemployment rate ranked second-lowest across the 50 states. 

Employment 4



Employment 5