Economic toll of COVID-19 leads to more layoffs on the Iron Range

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  • Apr 21, 2020

Workers on Minnesota's Iron Range continue to be hit hard by the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus health crisis. 

The latest job losses, albeit temporary, is at a paper mill in Grand Rapids. UPM Blandin is home to 240 employees and will temporarily shut down operations for two weeks. 

“The global response to the coronavirus pandemic has led to an overall slowdown of the economy. We are taking short-term measures to respond to market conditions. We rely on our global network of modern paper mills to meet customer demand,” UPM Blandin General Manager Scott Juidici said in a statement.

The paper mill bending under the pressure of the pandemic comes on the heels of a trio of Iron Range mining companies laying off hundreds of employees. 

According to The Associated Press, approximately 650 workers will be laid off when Hibbing Taconite ends production on May 3. The layoffs are a result of a slowdown in steel demand, but the mine hopes to restart operations in early July, according to the report. 

Cleveland-Cliffs and U.S. Steel have also made plans to stop production at mines in Babbit, Silver Bay and Keetac, resulting in layoffs of another 850 employees.

As of April 19, more than 493,000 workers in Minnesota have applied for unemployment insurance since March 16.