Southeast Minnesota sees historic low unemployment rates as staffing issues persist

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(ABC 6 News) – The country has seen unprecedented staffing shortages, and Minnesota is no exception. Some businesses say they are better situated now, while others still struggle to find workers this summer.

These staffing shortages exist while Southeast Minnesota has historically low unemployment rates. The Purple Goat’s owners say Rochester’s low unemployment rate doesn’t surprise them. They’ve seen a steady stream of new applications for the past few months.

"Without staff, you have nothing," said Purple Goat Co-owner and executive chef Mark Kranz.

Kranz said he knows the service industry has fallen on hard times.

"Restaurant workers decided to get out of the restaurant business. Go to Kwik Trip, go to Target — just because their starting pays are quite a bit higher," he said.

Kranz said while his business is okay, other businesses still face a worker shortage. Another Rochester restaurant, Tavern 22, said they are having a difficult time retaining staff.

"It’s important to take care of your people," the owner, Scott Schneider, said.

Kranz agrees.

"We try to show love, respect, kindness, teamwork, and a pat on the back instead of always like — oh you didn’t do this or that," he said of his approach to retaining employees.

These continuing staffing issues do not, however, exactly line up with the latest unemployment data.

Olmsted County had a 1.3% unemployment rate in May, outpacing much of the state according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development. That is compared to May of 2019 pre-pandemic, when the unemployment rate was 2.5%.

Nearby, Mower County sits at 1.5%, Dodge County at 1.4%, Freeborn County at 1.6% and Fillmore county at 1.3%.