Minnesota shed 4,200 jobs in April

  • Article by: ADAM BELZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 15, 2014 - 8:31 PM

The jobless rate fell to 4.7 percent, but Minnesota posted its fourth month of subpar job growth.

Minnesotans hoping for a spring surge in the job market will have to wait another month.

The state’s employers shed 4,200 jobs in April, according to figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The losses came on top of a downward revision of 1,900 to the job gains in March, recasting the first part of the year in a gloomier light, as job growth in the state has leveled off and even pulled back so far in 2014.

“Frankly, it was a very disappointing month,” said Steve Hine, labor market economist for the state. “It’s also disconcerting that it’s the fourth consecutive month of subpar job growth. It’s too early to call it a sustained slowdown, but you’re starting to stretch it when you call it a temporary pause.”

The unemployment rate ticked downward to 4.7 percent in April, its lowest level since September 2007.

So far in 2014, the state has lost 3,900 jobs, with the biggest losses in retail, transportation and warehousing and finance and insurance.

“Four months of overall sluggish growth, with two months of fairly decent declines, that’s again starting to trend toward the line between temporary lull and sustained slowdown,” Hine said.

The state’s 12-month rate of job growth is now 1.5 percent, slipping a little farther behind the national ­average, which is 1.7 percent.

The average workweek in Minnesota, seen as an indicator of demand for workers, ticked downward in April by three-tenths of an hour to match the national average. Online job postings in the state declined by 11,400, its second consecutive significant monthly decline.

The biggest disappointments in April were in industries that should be adding jobs this time of year. Construction, which showed promise of a rebound in February and March, lost 2,200 jobs. Leisure and hospitality — which includes recreational, hotel and restaurant jobs — dropped 1,700 positions.

Administrative support and other business services — a category that includes temporary jobs — dropped 2,900 jobs.

One bright spot in April was manufacturing, which added 2,400 jobs in April to total 315,000 jobs, its highest level since February 2009.

Another good sign is that initial claims for unemployment dropped in April to 19,700, only the second monthly reading below 20,000 in the last 13 years.

“While hiring has dropped off, certainly so have layoffs,” Hine said.

Minnesota has added nearly 42,000 jobs over the past 12 months, and the only sector to lose jobs in that period has been financial activities, which is down 1,325 positions. In the metropolitan statistical areas, all five regions gained jobs in the past 12 months: Mankato was up 3.1 percent, St. Cloud was up 2.9 percent, Minneapolis-St. Paul was up 1.6 percent, Duluth-Superior was up 0.5 percent and Rochester was up 0.3 percent.

Despite the weak numbers so far this year, the long-term trend is still good, said Tom Stinson, an economist at the University of Minnesota.

“Anytime you’re not adding jobs, you’re kind of concerned. But we had a good run, and I think we’re taking a pause. That’s not an atypical thing to happen in Minnesota in the winter,” Stinson said. “While I’d be happier if we had a positive number, I’m not ready to push the panic button.”

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