Minnesota has highest COVID-19 death rate, and highest unemployment rate, out of any neighboring state

Nearly 625,000 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, and every day seems to bring new headlines of small businesses that will not survive the Coronavirus shutdown. Minnesota now has the highest unemployment rate of any of our neighboring states, according to the Tax Foundation. Despite the highest rate of unemployment in our area, Minnesota also has the distinction of having the highest COVID-19 death rate among these states, as well.

In other words, it appears Minnesota has the worst of both worlds.

Unemployment Rates

The graph below was created by the Tax Foundation. It shows unemployment compensation claims as a percentage of the civilian workforce for the entire United States. According to the map, which is only displaying data through April 25, 2020, Minnesota’s unemployment rate of 15.5 percent was by far the highest of any of our neighbors.

Wisconsin has the next-highest unemployment rate at 12 percent, meaning unemployment claims in Minnesota are 29 percent higher than the Badger State. Iowa has an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent, North Dakota has 11.4 percent unemployment, and South Dakota, the only state that never enacted a Stay At Home order, has the lowest unemployment rate in the county at 6.1 percent.

Coronavirus Death Rates in Minnesota

Minnesota’s high unemployment has not spared it in terms of Coronavirus death rate. In fact, Minnesota fares worse than our neighbors on this metric by a significant margin. The map below was produced by NPR utilizing data from John’s Hopkins University. All values are current as of 9:54 am on May 7, 2020.

As of May 7, Minnesota’s death rate per 100,000 residents was 8.6, compared to 6.9 in Iowa, 6.2 in Wisconsin, 4.1 in North Dakota, and 3.3 in South Dakota.

At this time it is difficult to draw many concrete conclusions from this data, but Minnesota appears to be an outlier in the region. It has experienced about 34 percent more deaths than Wisconsin, while also having 3.7 percent fewer cases.

One of the possible explanations of why Minnesota is the outlier is the rate of deaths form Long Term Care (LTC) facilities. Of the 485 deaths in Minnesota, 80 percent were from people living in Long Term Care (LTC) facilities, according to the Star Tribune. These populations are far more vulnerable to the virus than the general population, and thus far it appears deaths at these facilities has caused Minnesota’s death rate to exceed those of our neighbors.


Minnesota’s small business owners have been rocked by the Coronavirus shutdown. The closure of these businesses wipes out years of hard work, sacrifices, and the relationships these entrepreneurs have forged leading up to this point. Anyone who has ever been part of a family who runs a small business knows the business is part of the family. When a business like this shuts down, it’s more than losing a job. It’s like losing a family member and a sense of identity.

Despite the high number of unemployed and shuttered businesses, Minnesota has the highest death rate from the virus of any of our neighboring states.

Minnesota can’t afford to have the worst of both worlds. We  must do a better job of protecting seniors and the vulnerable while allowing other parts of society to open up. The Walz administration could start by looking at what is being done in state like South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, and Florida to see how those states have managed to fare better from both a health, and wealth, perspective.