NEWS DAY | Understanding unemployment numbers / MNSCU bonuses, ethics / Fong Lee shooter fired

jobs on a white background with a magnifierMinnesota unemployment: The numbers and beyond One in four Minnesotans say they or a family member in their household has lost a job in the last year, according to a new survey released by the Northwest Area Foundation yesterday. The survey release came one day after the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) commissioner said he was “encouraged” by a slight drop in Minnesota’s unemployment. Yet, even with the decline in unemployment, fewer Minnesotans had jobs at the end of August than at the beginning. Here’s a closer look at the numbers, and what they really mean.

Minnesota’s unemployment fell one-tenth of one percent in August, from 8.1 percent to 8.0 percent. (National unemployment rose during August, from 9.4 percent to 9.7 percent.) But Minnesota lost 10,300 jobs in August. How do these numbers fit together? Minnesota had fewer people employed in August, because jobs were lost. But unemployment was down, because fewer people looked for work. That might mean people gave up, moved out of state, or stopped looking for work because they were going back to school.

Overall, there were 120,300 fewer people working in Minnesota in August 2009 than there were in August 2008, a 4.3 percent decline over a year’s time.

The Northwest Area Foundation survey results show the impact of Minnesota job loss more personally:

One in four (24%) say they or a family member living in their household has lost a job in the past 12 months, and 41% say hours have been cut at work. Those with less than a college education are more likely to say they or a family member has lost a job (31%) than those with a college degree (10%). More than one in four Minnesota families (27%) have had problems paying for basic necessities such as mortgage or rent, heating and food. Half of Minnesota families (51%) have cut back on the amount they spend on food in the past year.

Cop who who shot Fong Lee fired Jason Anderson, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006, was fired following an internal investigation — of something. It’s not clear whether the internal investigation had anything to do with domestic assault charges that were brought against Anderson recently, and then dismissed, or whether there was some other reason for the firing the officer, who was awarded a Medal of Valor by the department after shooting Fong Lee.

Attorneys for Anderson, reports the Star Tribune, said they will appeal the firing, and that other officers accused or even convicted of domestic abuse have not been fired.

Take Action Minnesota Hmong Organizing Project leaders Dai Thao and Amee Xiong said in a statement released to the press:

The Hmong community is relieved that Officer Jason Anderson has been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, apparently as a result of an internal investigation.  Since Fong Lee’s shooting death in July 2006, the Hmong community has been fearful of the Minneapolis Police – the very people who are supposed to protect us.  That is why since Fong Lee’s death, our community has been united in working to bring significant change to the Minneapolis Police Department so this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone in our community again.

Bonuses for brass, wage freeze for profs Minnesota State Colleges and Universities gave $300,000 in bonuses to top administrators, in a year when tuitition is increasing, nearly all professors and staff have seen wage freezes, and layoffs are planned.

The Star Tribune reports that some administgrators are giving back all or part of their bonuses to meet specific college needs:

Winona State University President Judith Ramaley intends to invest her $12,000 bonus in a fund to build a new wellness center, according to the Winona Daily News, while Moorhead State University President Edna Szymanski is giving $3,000 of her $9,000 bonus to academic scholarships for needy students and another $3,000 to the school’s wellness center, according to the Fargo Forum. Larry Lundblad, president of Central Lakes College, told the Brainerd Dispatch he plans to put the $12,000 he received back into programs for students and staff, including replenishing a fund to help students with emergency needs.

That’s three people. Bonuses went to 32 top staffers, with the biggest – $32,500 – going to MNSCU Chancellor James McCormick, whose base salary is $360,000. Union leaders say the bonuses are just plain wrong. MPR reports:

“It all comes down to ethics,” said Carroll “Bird” Partridge, president of the AFSCME union at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. “Somehow we need to let them know that ethically it isn’t right.”

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