What are the forces moving the Minnesota economy? Adam Belz tries to identify the trends and show the connections between Minnesota and the larger U.S. and global economies. You can connect with him on Twitter: @adambelz

Minnesota employers add 9,500 jobs in December, unemployment rate steady

Posted by: Adam Belz under Business trends, Economics Updated: January 23, 2014 - 12:48 PM

Minnesota employers added 9,500 jobs in December, the state reported Thursday, and the unemployment rate held steady at 4.6 percent.

Thanks to a boom in retail hiring and modest growth in administrative support, private education and local government, the state’s labor market closed out 2013 with one of its strongest months of the year.

The December job gains combined with November figures that were revised upward by 1,700 jobs brought total job growth in Minnesota to 45,900 in the past year, according to figures released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. That was a growth rate of 1.7 percent, slightly ahead of the national rate of 1.6 percent,

“December’s employment numbers closed out a strong year for the Minnesota labor market,” said the agency’s commissioner, Katie Clark Sieben. “Eleven out of 12 major industrial sectors gained jobs last year, and leading indicators point to continued growth in 2014.”

Retail trade was the big gainer for the month of Decmeber, adding 4,900 jobs in a better-than-usual holiday shopping season. Other gains occurred in local government, which added 1,800 jobs, and manufacturing, which added 1,700. Private education added 1,000 jobs, and 1,600 jobs were added in administrative support  and waste services, a category that includes everything from back-end business jobs to temp work and janitorial.

Manufacturing was the only sector to lose jobs in the past year, down 400 jobs. But factories have added 7,300 jobs since August after an abysmal first half of the year.

“Over the course of 2013, the unemployment rate has fallen by eight-tenths of a point, and the number of individuals officially unemployed has declined by nearly 25,000,” said Steve Hine, a labor market economist for the state.

All the metro areas in the state saw job gains over the past 12 months, though 77 percent – 35,200 – of total job growth was in the Twin Cities. The state now has 16,000 jobs more than it did at its pre-recession peak.

Leading indicators for the job market are strong, Hine said. The average workweek rose to 34 hours, only the fourth time in recorded state history it’s ever been that high and the first time in the winter. Online job postings jumped by 6,100 in December.

“We can expect a continuation of job gains, at least into early 2014,” Hine said.

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