Jobless Rate Falls to 6.7%, Lowest Since Dec. 2008

The state's January unemployment rate of 6.7 percent is the lowest since December 2008.

Minnesota's unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent in January-the lowest rate recorded since December 2008-according to figures released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The state's January rate is down 0.2 percent from the previous month and well below the national rate of 9 percent.

According to DEED, Minnesota added 2,000 jobs during the month. Over the past year, the state has gained 16,500 jobs, which represents a 0.6 percent growth rate. The growth rate for the nation during that period was 0.7 percent.

“The figures indicate a slow but steady improvement in the Minnesota labor market,” DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips said in a statement. “While the economy continues to face headwinds, we're seeing a number of positive signs, including growth in temp-help hiring, rising consumer confidence, and declining initial claims for unemployment benefits.”

All but two of the state's sectors gained jobs, led by the education and health services sector, which added 4,200 jobs in January. The other sectors that added jobs during the month were leisure and hospitality (up 1,800), other services (up 900), financial activities (up 700), logging and mining (up 500), professional and business services (up 400), construction (up 200), manufacturing (up 200), and information (up 100).

Job losses occurred in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (down 6,700) and the government sector (down 300).

All of the state's metro areas reported job increases over the past year: St. Cloud is up 2.2 percent, Mankato is up 2.2 percent, Duluth-Superior is up 0.6 percent, Mankato is up 1 percent, and Minneapolis-St. Paul is up 0.3 percent.

DEED's employment data for January also included updated employment data from the previous 21 months. The revised figures indicate that the state lost 158,300 jobs during the recession, rather than the 162,200 originally reported. However, the recovery has also been slower than originally reported, with 19,300 jobs gained in 2010 instead of 33,000.

In other positive news, the Mid-America Business Conditions Index for Minnesota-a report that's compiled monthly by a group at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska-climbed to 59.8 in February, up from 55.2 in January.

The index ranges from zero to 100, and an index greater than 50 indicates that supply managers expect economic expansion over the next three to six months.

The nine-state region also saw an improvement in the index, increasing to 63.2 from 58.9 in January, marking the 15th consecutive month that the index has risen above growth neutral.