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University of Minnesota Extension

Duluth’s workforce and COVID-19

View of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota

Key findings

  • Potential impact on jobs: In the weeks ending March 21, 28, and April 4, 17,466 people filed for unemployment insurance in northeast Minnesota.
    • The Economic Modeling Systems Incorporated database indicates there were 150,255 jobs in the region in 2019 — the claims represent 12 percent of total employment.
    • The food services and drinking places industry has the largest projected drop in employment, with a loss of 1,867 jobs. Hospitals and specialty trade contractors also face large employment drops. 
  • Potential future growth: A major uncertainty regarding COVID-19 is the economy’s potential recovery. Two particular approaches may help guide thinking regarding possible scenarios.
    • Exploring which industries were primed for growth during a time of economic uncertainty. Health care has been a growing industry and growth was expected — 12 percent in hospital employment and 7 percent in nursing and residential care employment.
    • Considering the short-term versus long-term nature of the current situation. Many health care workers, for example, are being laid off due to providers opting not to offer elective procedures. Demand for these procedures, however, has not necessarily dropped, and services may return close to normal once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Food services and drinking places may face a more uncertain future. Travel and tourism may be slower to return to its baseline.

About this report

Local governments are facing many unforeseen challenges during COVID-19. One is how to mobilize resources to help residents who find themselves recently unemployed, either temporarily or permanently. Workforce development professionals across Minnesota can use available labor market data to assist with these efforts.

For this analysis, Extension gathered data from the Economic Modeling Systems Incorporated (EMSI) workforce database and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) unemployment claims for Duluth, Minnesota and its immediate surrounding communities.

This analysis defines Duluth by the following zip codes: 55801-55808, 55810-55812, and 55814-55816.

Read full report (PDF)


Brigid Tuck, senior economic impact analyst; John Bennett, Extension educator, community economics

Reviewed in 2020

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