Jan. 23--Minnesota companies added 9,500 jobs in December, led by a sizable gain in retail employment as the holiday season hit full speed.
Department store jobs accounted for a substantial chunk of the 4,900 retail jobs that were added last month, following a string of years with weak holiday-period retail job gains, said Steve Hine, the state's director of labor market information.
The state's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.6 percent in December, as more people joined the state's labor force and started looking for work again.
"December's unemployment numbers closed out a strong year for the Minnesota labor market," said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The state added 45,900 jobs in the last year for a growth rate of 1.7 percent, just ahead of the national rate of 1.6 percent.
The overall retail sector hiring in December was the strongest since 2008, though more recent news "sheds a shadow over that report right now," Hine said, referencing the 475 job cuts announced Wednesday by Target.
The over-sized gain in retail jobs "may mean that when January numbers come out ... we may see an off-setting decrease," he said.
Other Minnesota sectors gaining jobs in December included government, up 2,600; manufacturing, up 1,700; education and health services, up 1,200; and professional and business services, up 1,000.
The gain for professional and business services was the first monthly increase following a decline of 11,000 that started last summer.
That sector is driven by cyclical demand, and can indicate that businesses are cutting back, Hine said. The sector "is the one weak spot in this report, or at least over the last six months," he said. "We'll watch that carefully ... to see if strength reappears."
John Welbes can be reached at 651-228-2175.
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Retail hiring leads 9,500 December job gains in Minnesota
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