News Column

Minn. Employment on Track to Reach Pre-recession Levels

March 5, 2013

John Welbes, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Minnesota's employment picture improved again in January, with the addition of 12,100 jobs, led by gains in trade, transportation and utilities, and construction jobs.

State figures also contained revisions showing the state gained 16,700 more jobs in the previous 21 months than originally reported.

"At the current pace of job growth, we soon will have recovered all the jobs that were lost in the recession," said Katie Clark Sieben, the commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

With the revised numbers, Minnesota has now recovered 143,200 jobs -- close to 90 percent -- of the 160,100 that were lost during the Great Recession.

The revised employment figures come from tax reports that businesses submit quarterly to the state, which list actual employee counts, said Steve Hine, director of the state's Labor Market Information Office. That data comes in later than the survey results that the state receives monthly. Once the state has a year's worth of the tax report data, it replaces the sample estimates.

All 11 industrial sectors showed year-over-year growth rates in the past 12 months -- the first time that's happened since the year 2000.

Over the last year, trade -- which includes retailers -- transportation and utilities led the way with 13,300 new jobs. Other big gainers were education, health services, government, and professional and business services.

The state's unemployment rate did rise in January, but Hine said

that's because improving economic conditions have drawn more people back into the labor force, which contributes to a temporary increase in unemployment while those new entrants look for work. The January rate of 5.6 percent was up from December's revised figure of 5.4 percent.

"It's not that the increase in unemployment was a movement of people from jobs to (joblessness)," he said.

The state has been in an unemployment rate range near 5.5 percent for most of 2012, and Hine said the January move upward wasn't a major change.

Hine said it's noteworthy that retail trade jobs continued to show some strength in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, meaning fewer jobs were lost than is typically the case after the holiday shopping season.

"It gives us an idea of the strength of consumer spending," he said.

Another sector that showed up stronger in the revised numbers than previously reported was leisure and recreation, which includes golf courses and ski resorts. Strength in those areas is another indicator that consumer spending is contributing to the state's recovery, Hine said.



Source: (c)2013 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) Distributed by MCT Information Services