Minnesota unemployment rate soars to 8.1%, highest since 1983

Minnesota's unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent in April, the highest since 1983 as the state shuttered thousands of businesses to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The one-month spike from 2.9 percent unemployment in April is unprecedented in Minnesota. For comparison, the biggest single-month increases both came during the 2007-09 recession: 6.3 percent to 6.7 percent in December 2008 and 7 percent to 7.4 percent in February 2009.

There were 249,453 Minnesotans unemployed in April, up from 88,826 the previous month, according to the state Department of Economic Development. 

The new figures don't fully capture the extent of the downturn because unemployment data lags by a month. Since mid-March, nearly 700,000 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment, which is 22 percent of the state's labor force.

Gov. Tim Walz's executive orders have closed businesses across several industries, ranging from bars and restaurants to salons and doctors' offices, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Walz administration has slowly lifted restrictions on many businesses to operate at a limited capacity. On Wednesday, the governor said restaurants would be allowed to open their outdoor patios on June 1, while salons could operate at 25 percent capacity.