MN Adds 2,600 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Unchanged

Professional and business services, as well as the construction industry, contributed largely to March’s gains; the leisure and hospitality sector, along with retail, struggled during the month.
MN Adds 2,600 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Unchanged

Following several months of lackluster employment data, state officials said Thursday that Minnesota’s employers added a seasonally adjusted 2,600 jobs in March.

After adding 27,700 jobs during the fourth quarter of 2013, Minnesota’s labor force conditions worsened during the first three months this year. In fact, DEED revised its earlier figures for February, saying that the state lost 1,200 jobs that month, rather than the previously reported 100.

But in March, the state’s labor force “showed signs of renewed life,” according to Steve Hine, research director for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Labor Market Information Office.

The professional and business services sector saw the largest gains, adding 3,500 jobs in March. Hine said that the sector performed well across the board, seeing growth in technical services, corporate headquarters employment, and administrative services—all of which “hit new highs.”

Construction also performed well, adding 2,700 jobs during the month and continuing to significantly outpace the national growth rate in that sector. Hine said that the strength in construction was “really quite a surprise considering the miserable [weather] conditions,” and he expects to see continued growth as the weather improves.

Other sectors that added jobs during the month included financial activities (up 1,200), government (1,000), information (400), manufacturing (200), and logging and mining (100).

Some areas, however, shed jobs during the month. Leisure and hospitality lost 2,700 jobs, although Hine pointed out that the sector had gained jobs for several consecutive months, so he hopes the losses constitute “a temporary pause.”

The trade, transportation, and utilities sector—which includes retail—continued to struggle in March after posting a couple of months of losses. The sector shed 2,300 jobs in March, and department stores were the “glaring weakness,” Hine said.

Other sectors that lost jobs in March included education and health services (down 1,000) and other services (500). Year-over-year, financial activities is Minnesota’s only sector to have lost jobs. It’s down 637 positions. By contrast, education and health services is up 11,515 jobs from last March.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.8 percent in March, well below the U.S. rate of 6.7 percent. The state’s labor force participation rate climbed 0.1 percent to 70.6 percent during the month—and Minnesota’s labor force exceeded 3 million participants for the first time ever. Hine pointed out, however, that while the 3 million figure is positive, continued growth is important, since an aging population will soon put substantial downward pressure on that growth.

“Minnesota is adding jobs at a steady pace and now has added 33,000 more jobs than its previous all-time employment peak that occurred right before the recession,” DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said in a statement. “After extreme winter weather and a slow start to the year, March gains indicate renewed strength in the economy and continued growth in the months to come.”