>>State adds 800 jobs in December, unemployment drops to 2.9 percent
(St. Paul, MN) — Minnesota employers added 800 jobs in December. The state’s Labor Market Information Director Angelina Nguyen says the smaller gain than previous months is primarily due to 17-hundred local government jobs being lost. Nguyen says it could be because the state had a much warmer December, noting all the tasks local government is responsible for in the area of snow removal, plowing roads and de-icing. Minnesota’s unemployment rate ticked down two-tenths of a percentage point to 2.9%, this compares to the national jobless rate of 3.7%. Nguyen says this is the sixth-straight month of job growth in the state.
>>MNsure sets health insurance enrollment record
(St. Paul, MN) — Officials say a record 146,445 Minnesotans signed up for private health insurance plans for 2024 through the state-run MNsure exchange, a 13-percent increase from last year. They say 58 percent of households received tax credits, averaging over 64-hundred dollars. The annual open enrollment period ended January 15th, but that deadline does not apply to those eligible for Medical Assistance (Minnesota’s Medicaid) or MinnesotaCare (the state-subsidized program). Members of federally-recognized tribes can enroll in health insurance through MNsure at any time of the year. And those with a qualifying “life event” — such as having a baby, getting married or losing employer-based coverage — also may be eligible to purchase health insurance through MNsure.
>>MN Reps. Craig, Stauber Call for Statewide USPS Investigation
(Eagan, MN) — U.S. Representatives Angie Craig and Pete Stauber are calling for a statewide investigation into Postal Service’s Minnesota-North Dakota district, which currently ranks among the ten worst-performing postal districts for First Class mail service. A letter to USPS Inspector General Tammy Hull, signed by every member of the Minnesota House delegation, says, “Over the last year and a half, we’ve heard from thousands of constituents who are disappointed with their mail service.” This follows multiple calls from local officials to investigate the USPS Inspector General.
>>Man Threatening to “Shoot Up’ U of M Formally Charged
(Watson, MN) — The Watson man who threatened to shoot people at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus last week has been formally charged. 41-year-old Mark Rongstad faces two counts of threats of violence and one count of illegal ammunition possession. Court records say Rongstad made threats that closed the U of M campus and Facebook posts that put Chippewa, Yellow Medicine, and Renville counties into lockdown procedures. Rongstad was apprehended at his Watson home later that day after making more threatening Facebook posts and shooting outside of his home’s windows at SWAT team members. His next court date is Feb. 14.
>>Union members ratify first contract with Planned Parenthood North Central States
(St. Paul, MN) — After nearly 15 months of negotiations, Planned Parenthood North Central States (PPCNS) unionized staff, including members of SEIU Minnesota and Iowa, ratified their first contract Wednesday with 84% voter support. The three-year contract, which take effect immediately, will increase pay for all 430 union members by at least 14.75%, increase minimum wage to $19 an hour for all roles, provide healthcare affordability and benefits, and further clarify and stabilize job duties, work hours, and schedules.
>>MDHR Suing Brainerd Printing Company for Sexual Harassment, Assault Case
(St. Paul, MN) — The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is suing Brainerd company Sheridan, formerly known as Bang Printing, for failing to stop a supervisor from repeatedly sexually assaulting two employees. In June 2020, a Sheridan supervisor began sexually harassing and assaulting two employees with unwelcome sexual advances, unwanted touching, and offensive comments. Investigators say one of the employees filed a complaint in July 2020 – but was ignored — and several months later a second employee quit due to continued harassment and assault. State officials say the supervisor was promoted in January 2021 despite knowing about about the behavior, Sheridan only gave a verbal warning once the first employee filed another complaint. Only after the state Human Rights Department informed Sheridan of the lawsuit in May 2021 did the company launch their own investigation and subsequently fire the supervisor in July 2021.
>>2023 not a good year in housing market, 2024 looking better
(Minnetonka, MN) — It’s no surprise that just-released numbers from industry group Minnesota Realtors confirm 2023 was far from a “hot” year for the housing market, but 2024 is looking better. The year just ended had the lowest level of closed sales since 2010, with sales down over 30 percent from 2019 and new listings down every year since then — but Realtors president Geri Theis in Redwood Falls says new listings and pending sales were both up in December. Theis says interest rates have fallen to about 6.5 percent and “we’ve had new listings increasing for the third consecutive month. With more inventory, then we’re gonna see more opportunities for our buyers to purchase.” And Theis (TICE) says it’s still a good market for home sellers because inventory is below usual levels.
>>St. Cloud working toward goal of first city in world to create its own green hydrogen
(St. Cloud, MN) — St. Cloud continues to work toward being the first city in the world to create its own green hydrogen, with a 1.1-million-dollar state grant already in hand and negotiations under way for another 3.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. Public Service Director Tracy Hodel says the project will use solar and biofuel generated to produce a carbon-free fuel source, basically turning a small amount of water into gases. She says, “What it takes to fill someone’s hot tub – about 400 gallons of water – can produce enough electricity to power an average household for an entire year.” Hodel says Metro Bus and New Flyer would be potential users of the green hydrogen gas produced at the facility. She says other potential uses include using it on-site to feed boilers, or selling it to Xcel Energy as a heating source.