MN Employers Add Jobs, But Growth Rate Slows

MN Employers Add Jobs, But Growth Rate Slows

Minnesota added a net 600 jobs in January, although retail employment, which fared well in December, represented a major weak spot.

State officials said Thursday that Minnesota employers added jobs in January, and while the growth rate was significantly slower than those seen in recent months, it marked the sixth straight month of job gains.

Meanwhile, a revision of previous data helped paint a slightly rosier employment picture for the past 21 months.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Minnesota employers added a net 600 jobs in January, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). That marked the sixth consecutive month of job growth in the state. January was, however, “noticeably weaker” after a “very robust” fourth quarter, Steve Hine, research director of DEED’s Labor Market Information Office, said in a conference call with reporters.

Following the latest round of revisions, DEED said that the state added 11,900 jobs in December, 2,200 in November, and 13,600 in October. The release of February and March data may, however, help illustrate how much of an impact the cold weather had on January's figures.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate held steady in January at a seasonally adjusted 4.7 percent. (DEED first reported a 4.6 percent rate for December but has since revised its figure.) Minnesota’s jobless rate remains well below the national rate of 6.6 percent.

Over the year, the state has added 52,160 jobs—which translates to a growth rate of 1.9 percent, just a hair above the national rate of 1.8 percent.

How Each Sector Fared In January

Minnesota’s leisure and hospitality sector added 3,000 jobs in January, the most among all industries. Hine said that traditional restaurants continue to face challenges, but the sector benefitted from fast-food chains, among other contributors.

Other sectors that increased jobs in January were manufacturing (up 2,000), education and health care (1,200), professional and business services (900), and other services (200). Within manufacturing, the strength stemmed primarily from wood products, transportation equipment, and food manufacturing, which offset weaker results in areas such as computers and medical equipment, Hine said.

The retail sector—which contributed to December's job gains—did an about-face and was largely responsible for the 3,200 jobs lost in January in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector. While raw retail employment numbers tend to dip each January when temporary workers are released following the holidays, DEED's figures are seasonally adjusted. And department stores were the “glaring weak spot,” Hine said.

Other sectors that lost jobs in January included financial activities (down 1,200), information (1,100), construction (900), and government (down 300).
Construction, however, has been faring well in recent months; in fact, it’s up 9,562 jobs year-over-year, a growth rate that far exceeds the national average for that sector. The logging and mining sector, meanwhile, held steady in January.

New claims for unemployment benefits fell “pretty dramatically” in January but ticked back up in February, according to Hine. “But considering our weather conditions, I’d expect to see some of this volatility month-to-month level out,” he said.

“Even with January’s extremely cold weather, hardworking Minnesotans continued to generate jobs,” DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said in a statement. “We’re particularly encouraged by the breadth of the labor market recovery, with all 11 of the state’s industrial sectors gaining jobs in the past year.”

Revisiting Past Employment Numbers

When announcing January’s employment figures, DEED also released an annual revision to past data.

Those revisions suggest that, over the previous 21 months, the state added 12,661 more jobs than originally reported. Based on that data, total employment in the state topped 2.8 million in December—the highest level in Minnesota history, according to DEED.

The agency also said that Minnesota has regained 190,400 jobs since the low point of the recession and is “31,400 jobs above the state’s pre-recessionary peak.”

The revisions are meant in part to account for a broader set of employers. DEED’s monthly job estimates are based on a survey of about 3,000 employers, but roughly 150,000 employers are required to report their jobs data on a quarterly basis. Each year, DEED revises its numbers to align with that larger pool of companies.