MN Loses 4,200 Jobs In A “Very Disappointing” April

Only three sectors added jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in April, with manufacturing being the only real bright spot in Minnesota’s private sector.
MN Loses 4,200 Jobs In A “Very Disappointing” April

Minnesota employers lost a seasonally adjusted 4,200 jobs in April, marking the fourth consecutive month of either job losses or sluggish growth.

The weak performance was compounded by the fact that state officials also revised March’s figures to be worse than previously reported. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) first said state employers added 2,600 jobs in March but have since revised that figure to 700 jobs gained.

Steve Hine, research director for the DEED’s Labor Market Information Office, characterized April as a “surprisingly weak” month, saying the four-month slowdown is teetering between a temporary lull and a more worrisome, extended issue.

“Considering the national job gain in April of 288,000 jobs and the clear signs in March that we seemed to be building momentum, these numbers are a big disappointment,” he said, pointing out that the “silver lining” was a slight dip in Minnesota’s unemployment rate to 4.7 percent. (The jobs and unemployment rate figures are derived from different surveys.)

Only three sectors added jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in April. Manufacturing was a bright spot, adding 2,400 jobs and reaching a post-recession high of 315,000 jobs. Members of that industry recently said in a survey that they’re optimistic about continued growth but are grappling with a shortage of skilled workers.

Government jobs climbed by 1,500 and the information sector added 200 positions. Trade, transportation, and utilities, which includes retail and has performed poorly in recent months, held steady in April.

Construction, which has recently shown signs of strength, lost 2,200 jobs in April and was “the most glaring disappointment,” Hine said. The “specialty trades” component was a major weak spot after growing in recent months. Professional and business services lost 2,200 jobs; leisure and hospitality, 1,700; financial activities, 800; education and health services, 700; other services, 600; and logging and mining, 100.

With the exception of manufacturing, there was weakness spread pretty much across the board in the private sector, making it difficult to pinpoint a particular cause for the weak month, Hine said. He stressed that the job-loss figures are seasonally adjusted—meaning that some of those that tallied losses in the report actually gained jobs in raw numbers, but at a pace slower than historical averages for the month.

While the state’s unemployment rate remains below the national average of 6.3 percent, Minnesota is adding jobs at a slower rate than the nation as a whole. Minnesota has added roughly 42,000 jobs in the past year, representing a growth rate of 1.5 percent, compared with a U.S. rate of 1.7 percent. And Minnesota’s 1.5 percent year-over-year growth rate in a sense benefitted from the fact that April 2013 was also a pretty poor month for the state's labor market.

While acknowledging April's slowdown, DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said in a statement that “the overall trend remains positive, with all but one of the state’s industrial sectors adding jobs over the past year.” Financial activities is the only sector that has lost jobs year-over-year and is down 1,325 positions.

Mankato and St. Cloud are outpacing rest of state’s metropolitan areas with annual growth rates of 3.1 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. The Twin Cities registered an over-the-year employment growth rate of 1.6 percent.