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Jobs riddle: Why does long-term unemployment persist in Minnesota?

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Minnesota has been relatively fortunate as the nation has climbed out of its recession – the state's latest unemployment figure was 4.8 percent, well below the U.S. rate of 6.7 percent.

But for many long-time job seekers, that figure means little.

Minnesota still has 40,000 long-term unemployed workers who have been looking for a job for six months or longer, about 25 percent of the state's unemployed, MPR News reports.

That figure is down from 54,600 in 2012, but the job seekers are frustrated – and so are experts who have a hard time pinning down exactly why these workers are still struggling to find a job.

Historically, it's not a typical problem. Judd Cramer, co-author of a recent Brookings Institution study on long-term unemployment, told MPR News that about one-third of the nation's unemployed have been looking for six months or more, which is historically high.

"Long-term unemployment, until the Great Recession, it was a European phenomenon we didn't think we had to deal with," Cramer said.

In the grim study released in March by Brookings, three Princeton economists reported that only 11 percent of the long-term unemployed in any given month found full-time work a year later.

The researchers examined whether a low supply of jobs or employer discrimination against the long-term unemployed contributed to long-term unemployment. And the answer was probably both, the Los Angeles Times reported.

MPR chats with job seeker Vicki Pond, who lost her job about 18 months ago: "I'm told by some people, 'Well, we're really looking for someone with a bachelor's or master's degree. And then [by] other people, I'm being told I'm overqualified."

That begs another tough question for job seekers to answer: Should I get a new degree?

It's been suggested that by 2018, 70 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require post-secondary education.

But the Star Tribune notes that a new report, the twice-a-year Job Vacancy Survey, turns that assertion on its head. That report says that in 2013, the share of job openings that required post-secondary education fell to a seven-year low – 38 percent.

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