Minnesota employers added 7,800 jobs in March, a second straight month of strong growth thanks to big gains in education and health care, according to the state.
The state has now added 49,400 jobs over the past 12 months, a growth rate of 1.9 percent, which is well below the national rate of 2.3 percent, according to figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
But the state has added 18,300 jobs since the start of February, the labor force is growing as more workers who had been on the sidelines decided to look for a job and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent, compared to a U.S. rate of 5.5 percent.
“Minnesota labor markets continued to show newfound strength,” said Steven Hine, the state labor market economist.
The state’s labor force is at an all-time high, with 3.02 million people now working. The labor force participation rate rose to 70.5 percent. The rise in that number over the past four months, a reversal of a downward trend since the mid-1990s, is difficult to explain, Hine said.
“This is a welcome but still short-term phenomenon,” he said. “I’d have to leave open the possibility that this is a statistical anomaly.”
For years, the retirement of baby boomers has pushed the labor participation rate lower.
Private education and health care led all sectors in March, gaining 5,800 new jobs. Transportation and utilities added 1,700 jobs and local governments 1,400.
The blot on the March jobs report was a decline in professional and business services positions. The high-skilled professional, scientific and technical sector lost 900 jobs and management — a sector that represents corporate headquarters jobs — lost 1,400.
“Professional and business services had really been the strong source of our job growth for quite some time,” Hine said. “We’ve seen losses in four of the last five months. It’s the second consecutive decline that we’ve seen in the management component.”
Layoffs at Target and General Mills in the past 12 months have cost managers and directors their jobs, but the trend is larger than that, and not unique to Minnesota, said Paul DeBettignies, an IT recruiter in Minneapolis. Teams are getting bigger at companies in general, and fewer managers are necessary.
“I’d say even over the last two years, there are many less manager, director and above level positions in town,” DeBettignies said. “I think it is a trend. I don’t think it’s going to end any time soon.”
Unemployment among blacks in Minnesota, after dropping dramatically from 2011 to 2014, has been ticking upward in recent months, according to the state’s estimates. Joblessness among blacks rose to 12.4 percent in March.
Latino unemployment is dropping fast, however, to 5.1 percent in March, compared to 8.1 percent a year earlier.
All of the state’s urban areas gained jobs in the past 12 months. The MSA numbers rundown: Minneapolis-St. Paul (up 2.1 percent), Mankato (up 1.9 percent), St. Cloud (up 1.9 percent), Rochester (up 0.9 percent) and Duluth-Superior (up 0.3 percent).