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Minnesota unemployment rate unchanged at 6.7 percent

Minnesota employers added a “disappointing” 1,300 jobs during February as the state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 6.7 percent, according to figures released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Steve Hine, DEED Labor Market Information Office research director, described February’s job growth estimate — based on a survey of employer payrolls — as “a little disappointing considering  the strength we saw nationally.” Nevertheless, Hine pointed out in a conference call this morning that  Minnesota’s unemployment rate continues to do better than the nation as a whole. That  rate is based on a separate survey of households.

The U.S. unemployment rate in February dipped to 8.9 percent, its lowest level in nearly two years as 192,000 jobs were added nationwide in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past year, Minnesota has gained about 19,600 jobs, for a growth rate of 0.8 percent. The U.S. growth rate during that same period was 1 percent.

Manufacturing was a particular bright spot for the Minnesota in February, with 2400 jobs added, making it the third-best month for job gains since 1990. Manufacturing employment is showing “broad-based improvement” across all sectors except furniture and printing and paper, Hine said.

 The recent announcement that computer component maker Hutchinson Technologies will lay off up to 600 will depress employment growth in coming months, he added.

Minnesota’s January figures were revised upward by 900 to reflect a gain of 2,900 jobs, largely because employment losses in retail were not as large as originally thought. The two-month job gain was barely enough to keep pace with the expansion of the labor force because of population growth, Hine said.

He pointed out that more than 40 percent of Minnesota’s job gains last year came from temporary employment services, indicating a high demand from labor across many sectors. “It’s a bit surprising and certainly disappointing that (temporary job growth) is not translating into more robust growth” in permanent employment, he said.

Hine also said it is difficult to predict the effect on Minnesota from disruptions in Japan following the earthquake and subsequent events. While businesses in Minnesota with trading partners in Japan might be negatively impacted, Hine said, “it may be a boon to employers who see business redirected here due to shutdowns in Japan. Which one of those factors becomes more prominent, I have no idea,” he concluded.

Along with manufacturing, other job gains occurred in February in professional and business services (up 1,200), construction (up 1,000), other services (up 800), government (up 100), and logging and mining (up 100).

Job losses occurred in February in education and health services (down 2,900), financial activities (down 600), leisure and hospitality (down 400), trade, transportation and utilities (down 200), and information (down 200).

Over the past year, professional and business services gained 10,100 jobs, along with manufacturing (up 7,900), education and health services (up 4,400), trade, transportation and utilities (up 3,400), other services (up 1,700), and logging and mining (up 700).

Year-over-year job losses have occurred in construction (down 3,500), leisure and hospitality (down 3,100), financial activities (down 1,100), government (down 600) and information (down 300).

In the state Metropolitan Statistical Areas, job gains occurred in the past 12 months in the St. Cloud MSA (up 2.4 percent), Mankato MSA (up 1 percent), Rochester MSA (up 0.7 percent), Minneapolis-St. Paul MSA (up 0.6 percent) and Duluth-Superior MSA (up 0.5 percent).

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