Twin Cities jobless rate -- at 4% -- is the lowest in U.S.

May figure of 4.0% was the best among large metro areas.

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Jake Weller, 28, of White Bear Lake, works at the Mall of America expansion site in Bloomington, MN on Thursday, May 22, 2014. Caroline Yang for Star Tribune

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The Twin Cities boasts the best unemployment rate of any large metropolitan area in the United States as a wave of recent hiring boost the local economy.

Job growth across a mix of industries in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area lowered the jobless rate to 4.0 percent in May, edging out Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio, for the nation’s lowest rate, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Tuesday.

“It’s fantastic news,” said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “This is a reflection of the healthy economy and a labor force we have in the state that’s very well-educated and hardworking.”

The economic downturn hit many other states harder than Minnesota, which has also had a forceful recovery.

The unemployment rate — which does not count those who have given up looking for a job — has dropped in the Twin Cities by a full percentage point since February.

“Number one, the health care economy never slacked off during the recession and then has continued to boom,” said Louis Johnston, an economist at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. “We have a big footprint in health care, both with medical devices and indirectly with UnitedHealth.”

Johnston also said the oil boom in North Dakota has helped the Twin Cities job market in subtle ways that aren’t felt in other major cities.

“We’re the closest metropolitan area to the Bakken, and I think that’s helped us a lot, especially in finance, insurance and logistics,” he said.

Rounding out the five major metro areas with the lowest unemployment rates are Austin with a 4.1 percent rate; Columbus and Oklahoma City tied at 4.4 percent, and Boston with an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.

The figures are not seasonally adjusted and are ranked by place of residence.

The report focused on unemployment numbers and didn’t single out industries that are driving the changes. But a boom of construction projects in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area, as the government defines it, has added nearly 10,000 jobs in the past 12 months.

State economist Laura Kalambokidis noted that improvements in the metro area’s unemployment picture are vital because job gains in the region influence the economic health of the state as a whole.

While the top rank is a “positive,” Kalambokidis said the good news isn’t limited to the Twin Cities.

“Another part of the story here is that if you look at the year-over-year changes, all of the non-Minneapolis-St. Paul metro regions — Duluth, Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud — have made improvements in the unemployment rate over the year,” she said.

The state, which has recouped all of the jobs lost during the recession, has the third-highest ranking of labor force participation in the nation, Sieben noted. Some 70.6 percent of workers are in the job force.

In the annual rankings, the metro area has ticked up a spot every year for the last three years, starting at No. 3 in 2011.

 

adam.belz@startribune.com 612-673-4405 • Twitter: @adambelz

jackie.crosby@startribune.com 612-673-7335

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