Fourth-quarter job openings in Minnesota hit 9-year high

  • Article by: ADAM BELZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2014 - 9:25 PM

Many of the jobs, however, are low-paying or part-time.

Job openings in Minnesota climbed to 60,389 at the end of 2013, the most during a fourth quarter since 2005.

“While there are still hardworking Minnesotans looking for employment, our data suggest the labor market is coming back into alignment in the wake of the recession,” said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “Increased job vacancies are a sign that the economy is growing and companies are looking for skilled workers.”

The new data, released Tuesday by the economic development agency, comes from the Job Vacancy Survey, a twice-annual look at the number of openings statewide, the wages offered, and the education and experience required for each job.

Construction added 2,200 openings compared with a year earlier, a healthy sign for the industry. The number of openings for factory workers rose by 1,000, and openings in personal care and service occupations increased by 1,700.

But the quality of available work in the state continues to be a concern. Openings for construction laborers, for whom the median wage offer is $9.30 per hour, accounted for much of the growth in construction. The median wage offer for factory workers ticked downward to $12 per hour.

The fourth-quarter median wage for all openings held roughly steady at $13 per hour compared with a year ago, and 39 percent of the openings are part-time. Nearly a third of all available jobs in the state pay less than $10 per hour.

“There’s just a huge number of jobs at the low end of the spectrum,” said Oriane Casale, a labor market analyst for the state.

Demand for workers in food service and sales occupations fell compared with a year earlier, but those types of jobs — along with office and administrative support — remain the most available in Minnesota. The five specific occupations with the most openings were retail sales, customer service, personal care aides, nursing assistants and cashiers.

“These are the jobs that tend to turn over a lot, so you see a lot of vacancies without an expansion in those industries,” Casale said.

Openings in well-paid computer and mathematics fields fell by 900, thanks to declining demand for systems analysts, software developers and computer user support staff.

“Finance and insurance was way down, and then professional, scientific and technical services was pretty much flat,” Casale said.

Statewide, there were 2.1 unemployed people for each vacancy in the fourth quarter, an improvement on the 2.6 unemployed people per vacancy a year earlier.

According to the survey, 33,160 of the openings, or 54.9 percent, were in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area. The remaining 27,240 vacancies were in outstate Minnesota. Compared with a year ago, job vacancies were up 11.3 percent beyond the metro area and down 3.6 percent within it.

Just over half — 56 percent — of openings offer health insurance.

Occupations that saw both an uptick in vacancies and a bump in wage offers include light truck and delivery drivers, biological technicians, loan officers, paralegals, massage therapists and tire repairers and changers, according to the survey.

The highest-paid openings in the state are for chief executives, for whom the median wage offer is $42.52 per hour, just beating out the median offer for pediatricians, surgeons and internists. While the number of CEO openings fell compared with a year earlier, wages offered to top executives rose by nearly $7 per hour, roughly a 20 percent increase.

Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz

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