The jobless rate dropped throughout the region in August with most counties hovering at or near 3% unemployment, according to figures released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Still, the most recent August numbers were higher than those of August 2018. Economists have said that the year-to-year comparison is a stronger measure of the relative strength of the job market.

Waseca County had the highest unemployment rate in the region in August at 3.4%, down from 3.7% in July. In August 2018, the county’s jobless rate stood at 3.1%.

Nicollet County had the lowest rate at 2.5%, down from a July reading of 2.8%. That county’s unemployment rate stood at 2.0% last August, DEED reports.

Mower and Dodge counties recorded jobless rates just slightly higher than Nicollet County in August. Mower County’s rate stood at 2.8%, down from 3.1% in July, but up from an August 2018 reading of 2.5%. Dodge County was close behind, dropping from 3.2% in July to 2.9% in August. In August 2018, Dodge County had a jobless rate of 2.6%.

Both Le Sueur and Freeborn counties recorded unemployment rates of 3.0% in August, DEED reports. However, the decline was more pronounced in Freeborn County, which had a rate of 3.6% in July, contrasted to Le Sueur County’s July rate of 3.3%. Both counties had an unemployment rate of 2.7% in August 2018.

Rice County’s unemployment rate also had a jobless rate of 2.7% in August 2018, compared to its rate of 3.1% this past month. The decline in Rice County was just a slight drop from its July reading of 3.3%.

Steele County’s jobless rate was slightly higher than its neighbor to the north, standing at 3.2% in August, down from 3.6% in July. In August 2018, Steele County also recorded a rate of 2.7%, according to DEED figures.

Of the cities in the region for which figures were available, Northfield recorded the lowest jobless rate at 3.0% in August, just a slight decline from its July numbers of 3.1%, but more than a half-percentage point higher than its August 2018 reading of 2.4%.

Faribault — Northfield’s Rice County neighbor — recorded the highest jobless rate of the cities in the region with a number of 4.0%, down from 4.2% in July and up slightly from its 3.8% reading in August 2018.

Owatonna, in Steele County, recorded an unemployment rate of 3.3% in August, down from 3.7% in July, but up from an August 2018 reading of 2.8%.

Both Waseca and Albert Lea recorded August jobless rates of 3.4%, down from 3.8% in July in Waseca and from 4.0% in Albert Lea over the same time period. In August 2018, Waseca’s rate was 3.2% compared to Albert Lea’s rate of 2.9%.

August rates in the region compared evenly to the state as a whole, according to DEED figures. In July, the state of Minnesota had an unemployment rate of 3.3%, which dropped to 3.0% in August. In August 2018, the state had a rate of 2.6%.

The national unemployment rate in August was 3.8%, down from 4% in July and from 3.9% in August 2018.

Reach Managing Editor Jeffrey Jackson at 444-2371 or follow him on Twitter @OPPJeffrey.

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