MN Unemployment Rate Ticks Down To 4.6 Percent

Despite significant losses in local government jobs, Minnesota’s private sector employers added 2,400 jobs in November.
MN Unemployment Rate Ticks Down To 4.6 Percent

Minnesota lost a net 800 jobs in November, driven largely by losses in government positions, although the state’s unemployment rate ticked down during the month.

Minnesota’s jobless rate fell 0.2 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted 4.6 percent, according to data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The state’s jobless rate remains well below the national average of 7 percent.

While the state lost 800 jobs during the month, that figure was dragged down by 3,200 losses in the government sector. Steve Hine, research director of DEED’s Labor Market Information Office, said during a Thursday conference call that the majority of those losses were in the “non-educational” positions in local governments.

In fact, Minnesota added 2,400 private sector jobs in November. The biggest gainer was the information sector, which added 1,300 jobs during the month. Hine said that the way in which his agency collects data for that sector makes it difficult to pinpoint which occupations fueled the growth, but it was likely led by areas such as software development and Web services.

Other sectors that added jobs in November included financial activities (up 1,200), other services (1,100), manufacturing (400), construction (400), and leisure and hospitality (100). Logging and mining, meanwhile, stayed flat.

DEED also pointed out that October’s overall job gains were revised upward by an additional 1,000 jobs.

However, in addition to the government sector, several other industries lost jobs during November: professional and business services (down 1,600); trade, transportation, and utilities (300); and education and health services (200).

The losses in professional and business services “could be a cause for some concern in the sense that, as a leading indicator for demand for labor, we don’t like to see slowness there,” Hine said, adding that there was a large drop-off at temporary help agencies.

Another “clear disappointment” was retail, a component of the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, Hine said. Department stores in particular struggled during November, a key month for retailers.

While Minnesota’s unemployment rate is better than the national average, Minnesota is lagging the nation in terms of job growth. Minnesota has gained 39,800 jobs over the past year, a growth rate of 1.4 percent, compared with a U.S. rate of 1.7 percent.

While the labor force participation rate dipped to 70 percent in November—the lowest Minnesota has seen in decades—Hine said that it is “clearly the case that the declining participation rate is being driven by increasing retirement rates.”

And while it may seem counterintuitive that Minnesota’s jobless rate dropped during a month in which the state shed jobs, Hine said that the calculation of the unemployment rate factors in a “smoothing out” of previous months’ data, essentially taking a moving average of prior months’ estimates.

In other words, the unemployment rate better reflects a strength in job numbers that the state has seen over the past six months.

“The labor market continues to show steady improvement, with the number of unemployed Minnesotans now below pre-recessionary levels,” DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said in a statement. “The state economy is growing and outperforming the rest of the country in many key categories.”

Learn more about Katie Clark Sieben’s take on the local economy in Twin Cities Business’ “Interview Issue.”