Most communities across southern Minnesota saw their unemployment rates decline in March, including in Goodhue County, according to figures released this week by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

DEED numbers showed that Red Wing’s jobless rate dropped to 6.5 percent, the lowest it has been since December 2013, 0.3 percent lower than February, and 0.5 percent lower than January, when the unemployment rate in Goodhue County’s largest city was the highest it had been in two years.

Goodhue County’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.6 percent to 5.4 percent, the lowest it has been since December 2013 as well.

The county followed a state trend in adding more jobs in March. According to DEED, Minnesota employers added 2,600 jobs in March, and the state’s labor force surpassed 3 million workers for the first time ever.

“Minnesota is adding jobs at a steady pace and now has added 33,000 more jobs than its previous all-time employment peak that occurred right before the recession,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben.

Several other communities in Minnesota recorded similar reductions in their jobless rates.

Faribault’s jobless rate held steady at 7.4 percent while Northfield’s dropped to 5.2 percent from 5.6 percent in February. Rice County’s unemployment rate decreased to 5.9 percent in March after sitting at 6.1 percent in February.

Rice County’s unemployment rate was nearly a full percentage point lower than March of 2013, when it was at 6.8 percent.

Owatonna’s unemployment rate once again dipped below 5 percent, falling to 4.8 percent in March after two straight months above 5 percent. March also marked the highest labor force participation rate for Owatonna since December, meaning more people were seeking jobs last month.

Steele County’s unemployment rate also declined to below 5 percent, falling to 4.9 percent after two straight months at 5.1 percent.

In Freeborn County, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent and the labor force was the highest it has been since November.

Mower County continued to have one of the lowest rates in the area at 4.7 percent, marking a full year that the Mower County has been below 5 percent. Austin’s rate dropped to 4.8 percent after two straight months at 5 percent.

Dodge County’s rate dropped to 6.1 percent after sitting at 6.4 percent for January and February. March’s rate for Dodge County was the same as it was a year ago.

Le Sueur County also dropped slightly, falling 0.1 percent to an 8.3 percent jobless rate in March. Nicollet County, with an unemployment rate of 4 percent, continued a streak dating back to July of 2012 where the unemployment rate has been below 5 percent.

In Waseca, the unemployment rate actually increased to 6.9 percent after being at 6.6 percent in February. As a whole, Waseca County’s jobless rate dropped to 6.4 percent.

Historically, the unemployment rate has dropped from March to April, and Clark Sieben said the Minnesota economy is continuing its recovery.

“After extreme winter weather and a slow start to the year, March gains indicate renewed strength in the economy and continued growth in the months to come,” she said.

Reach reporter Al Strain at 444-2376 or follow him on Twitter.com@OPPalstrain

I am a reporter for the Owatonna People's Press covering cops, courts, the city beat, business, agriculture and features. I graduated from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa in May of 2012. While in college I majored in Communication Arts with an emphasis