By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Unemployment remains considerably lower in the greater Mankato area than elsewhere in the state, home sales are stronger this year than last, new housing construction is up, and crop farmers are doing well.
A look at recent local economic reports show mostly good news for the area.
Unemployment in the greater Mankato region is considerably lower than in the state and far below the national average.
Unemployment in the Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area (all of Blue Earth and Nicollet counties) dropped to 4.6 percent in September, while Minnesota’s rate fell to 5.3 percent. St. Cloud’s unemployment dropped to 5.1 percent.
The local rate has been lower just four times in the past five years, hitting a low of 4.2 percent in April of this year.
There were 56,091 people with jobs, up about 700 from the same month last year. Meanwhile, there were 2,687 people unemployed in September, down 200 from a year ago.
The unemployment rate does not include people who have stopped actively looking for a job.
Home sales steady
Sales of existing homes were off in September compared to a year earlier, but sales for the year are slightly ahead of last year.
In September, 144 homes were sold in the region compared to 159 last year in September.
For the year, 1,250 homes have been sold compared to 1,211 in the same period last year.
Housing starts up
The number of new housing starts is up 23 percent year over year in Mankato and North Mankato combined.
There have been 127 housing starts this year compared to 103 last year at this time. Most of the new construction has been apartments rather than single-family homes.
Ag sector generally strong
A decent corn and soybean harvest in the region, coupled with high commodity prices due to the Midwest drought are providing strong financial sheets for crop farmers.
Corn was selling locally for $7.42 per bushel this month, compared to just over $6 a year ago.
Soybeans were at $14.97 a bushel compared to $12 a year ago.
Hog prices from October were more than $83 for a 185-pound carcass. That’s up $20 from September. Milk prices are likewise up from previous months.
But livestock farmers are facing difficulties because feed prices have risen dramatically along with high crop prices. The increase in hog and milk prices are likely due to the fact many livestock operators sold off large portions of their herd in recent months, leaving reduced livestock numbers.
Hog producers say that even with slightly higher prices for their product, they expect to lose money because of high feed prices.