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MN Gains 14.5K Jobs, Approaches Pre-Recession Peak

Monday, April 01, 2013

Article by Twin Cities Business   |   Jake Anderson

Minnesota, whose employers added thousands more jobs in February, continues to outpace the nation in terms of job growth and is now within 1,000 jobs of its pre-recession peak.

Minnesota employers added 14,500 jobs last month, according to data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The state’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, held steady at 5.5 percent. (DEED initially reported a January jobless rate of 5.6 percent, but the rate was since revised downward.) Minnesota’s unemployment rate remains well below the national average of 7.7 percent.

Steve Hine, director of DEED’s Labor Market Information Office, said during a Thursday conference call that February’s figures represent “very positive news” for the state’s labor market.

Given that January numbers were revised upward by 1,400 jobs, the state has now gained 50,800 jobs during the past six months—the largest half-year gain since 1984, DEED said. Over the past year, the state has gained 62,400 jobs, representing a growth rate of 2.3 percent. Minnesota is significantly outpacing the national growth rate of 1.5 percent.

In fact, Minnesota has regained 159,100 jobs, or about 99 percent, of the 160,100 that were lost during the recession—or between February 2008 and September 2009. (February 2008 represents an all-time employment high before the state started losing jobs the following month, and September 2009 marked the end of a period of consecutive declines before the state starting regaining jobs in October of that year.)

That puts Minnesota within 1,000 jobs of its peak employment level of 2.78 million, which was seen in February 2008, according to Hine.

During February, the professional and business services sector gained 6,800 jobs, the most of any industry. That growth is “indicative of a broader strength across the economy” because it reflects a growing demand for services among businesses from all industries, Hine said.

“Strength was across the board” in the sector, but temporary help, which often serves as a bellwether for wider employment trends, played a major role in the sector’s growth, Hine added.

Other sectors that added jobs in February are leisure and hospitality (3,200), education and health services (1,900), financial activities (1,700), construction (1,400), trade, transportation, and utilities (1,300), and logging and mining (100).

The only sectors to shed jobs during the month are government (down 1,000), manufacturing (down 800), and information (down 100).

Year over year, all sectors have made positive gains. The trade, transportation, and utilities sector added the most jobs, growing by 15,200. Education and health services added 13,100; professional and business services, 12,300; government, 5,300; financial activities, 3,600; manufacturing, 3,400; leisure and hospitality, 3,300; information, 2,200; other services, 1,900; construction, 1,900; and logging and mining, 300.

“The state labor market is building significant momentum, with all 11 industrial sectors showing healthy job gains over the past year,” DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said in a statement, adding that nine of those sectors are outpacing their respective national growth rates.

Other economic indicators also point to growth, Hine said. For example, the state’s ratio of unemployed individuals to online job postings was 1.31 in February—marking the best ratio the state has seen since it began tabulating such postings in 2005. The length of the average work week, meanwhile, ticked up one-tenth of an hour to 33.2 hours per week.

The state’s labor force participation rate slipped 0.1 percent to 70.9 percent in February, but it has leveled off in recent months after diminishing rapidly during the recession, Hine said. It’s a positive sign that the rate has held relatively steady despite the fact that the aging work force continues to retire at higher rates, he added.

Hine also pointed out that Minnesota has seen consistent job improvement during the past six months despite political uncertainty surrounding events like the so-called “fiscal cliff.” He expects there to be some negative impact from sequestration—$85 billion in across-the-board cuts to the federal budget that took effect March 1—but said recent trends show the state’s economy has been able to develop momentum despite such events.

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