MN Unemployment Hits Lowest Rate Since 2008

Despite the dropping unemployment rate, state officials say the state continues to shed jobs, and the conflicting indicators make it difficult to draw clear conclusions about Minnesota's labor market.

Minnesota's unemployment rate fell half a percentage point in November to a seasonally adjusted 5.9 percent, according to data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

That marks the lowest unemployment rate in the state since October 2008, and it remains well below the national jobless rate of 8.6 percent.

Still, the unemployment data seems to run counter to job loss numbers, as DEED also reported that the state's employers eliminated 13,700 jobs during the month. And October figures were revised to include an additional 1,200 lost jobs, boosting the actual number of jobs lost from 6,100 to 7,300.

In fact, the state has lost a total of 22,900 jobs during the past three months while the unemployment rate fell from 7.2 percent to 5.9 percent during that period, according to DEED.

Labor Market Information Office Director Steve Hine said Thursday that the monthly job loss data is derived from a survey of employers, while the unemployment rate comes from a sample of households-and the two data sets offer “very conflicting signals.”

DEED pointed to several possible reasons why the state could have shed jobs while still reducing unemployment. For example, the samples used in the two surveys could have been misrepresentative of the state's overall labor market. In addition, people could be finding jobs that aren't reflected in the employer survey, which draws from a sample of 3,000 Minnesota employers; they could have become self-employed or contract workers during the period, for instance. The unemployment rate was also influenced by diminished labor force participation, which was likely due to retirement or to some unemployed individuals stopping their search for work, Hine said.

The state's employment indicators have been disparate for several months. In October, the state lost 7,300 jobs, but the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted 6.4 percent. The unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in September, despite 7,400 jobs cut.

“The mixed results make it difficult to draw clear conclusions about how well the labor market is doing,” DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips said in a statement. “I'm cautiously optimistic, however, that the economy is moving in the right direction.”

Hine said that DEED intends to “look closely at the quality” of the state's employment data. He said, however, that other indicators, like temporary hiring and new claims for unemployment benefits, paint a more positive employment picture than the data from the state's employer survey.

In positive news, the education and health services sector gained 1,300 jobs during November; logging and mining, meanwhile, held steady.

Job losses occurred during the month in leisure and hospitality (down 4,400), government (down 4,000), construction (down 1,600), manufacturing (down 1,200), professional and business services (down 1,100), financial activities (down 800), trade, transportation, and utilities (down 700), information (down 600), and other services (down 600).

Of the state's largest metropolitan areas, Mankato has added the most jobs during the past year, up 3 percent. Rochester's jobs have grown 1.2 percent, and the Twin Cities are up 1 percent. St. Cloud and Duluth-Superior have each lost jobs during the past year, down 1.1 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.