Unemployment numbers in Roseau County lower than they appear at first glance

Initial concerns of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have given way to a need for more workers.

Roseau Mayor Jeff Pelowski speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion and renovation of the Roseau Community School. At left is Kraus-Anderson's Tracy Pogue, general contractor for the $40 million project. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Figures from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development that show about 5,100 – nearly 64% of Roseau County’s workforce – applied for unemployment insurance during the coronavirus pandemic don’t give the full picture, said the regional analyst and outreach manager for the agency.

The 5,088 figure is cumulative and represents the total number of Roseau County workers who applied for unemployment between March 16 and Aug. 17, said Cameron Macht, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development regional analyst and outreach manager.

Meanwhile, not everyone who applied to DEED for unemployment insurance may have received it, Macht said.

“There’s a wide variety of reasons people who applied may not receive it,” he said.

That includes not having enough hours during the base period, which is a recent 52-week pay period, or if the loss of the job was the employee’s fault.


“Even if they did apply and received insurance benefits, many of the people who have applied have gone back to work,” Macht said.

In June, for example, 1,500 Roseau County residents filed unemployment claims with DEED, and that number now has dropped to 273, he said.

“Things have definitely improved in the last two months,” he said.

In fact, Roseau County has a shortage of workers, according to Jeff Pelowski, Roseau mayor.

“We have a critical shortage here,” said Pelowski, noting that Marvin Windows and Polaris Industries Inc., in Roseau, are hiring employees. “We don’t have an employment problem here. We have the exact opposite problem.”

One factor that may have made the unemployment insurance applications numbers high, initially, is that employees at some of the county’s major businesses were encouraged by their employers to apply for benefits early in the pandemic, Pelowski said. At that time, some companies were furloughing employees in anticipation COVID-19 cases might increase.

“It was a very temporary, short-lived, planned event,” Pelowski said “It wasn’t caused by COVID other than to address the perceived problem we were going to have with COVID.”

Instead of seeing a downturn in the Roseau County economy result from the coronavirus pandemic, the opposite has been true, Pelowski said. The buildings trade is booming, and Polaris is having a banner year because of the demand for outdoor recreational vehicles.


“It’s truly amazing. We’re encouraging people to move up here. We have a lot of incentives,” he said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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