Minnesota employers added 2,600 jobs in March, a healthy bounce after a slow start to the year led by gains in professional and business services and the biggest bump in construction employment in two years.
The state’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.8 percent, well below the national rate of 6.7 percent, according to figures released Thursday by the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Construction firms hired 2,700 people in March despite the snow and cold, an encouraging sign for an industry that has been slow to replace the 30,000 jobs it lost in the recession.
“Considering that March was still the depths of winter here, it does show signs that construction is likely to exhibit some real growth as spring finally arrives,” said Steve Hine, a labor market economist for the state.
Construction employment is up 11 percent over the past 12 months. The gains in March offset losses in retail, private education and hotels and restaurants.
The state has added 41,582 jobs in the past year, a growth rate of 1.5 percent. That’s slightly below the U.S. job growth rate of 1.6 percent over the same period.
Minnesota’s labor force hit a milestone, surpassing the 3 million mark for the first time in state history. The state labor force participation rate – the share of the population that is either working or looking for a job -- climbed 0.1 percent to 70.6 percent.
“After extreme winter weather and a slow start to the year, March gains indicate renewed strength in the economy and continued growth in the months to come,” said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the state economic development agency. “Minnesota is adding jobs at a steady pace and now has added 33,000 more jobs than its previous all-time employment peak that occurred right before the recession.”
Professional and business services led all sectors last month with 3,500 new jobs, the economic development agency reported.
Other sectors that gained jobs were financial activities (up 1,200), government (up 1,000), information (up 400), manufacturing (up 200) and logging and mining (up 100).
Sectors that lost jobs last month were leisure and hospitality (down 2,700), transportation and utilities (down 2,300), education and health services (down 1,000) and other services (down 500).
All of Minnesota’s biggest cities have added jobs over the past 12 months except Rochester, where employment is down slightly. St. Cloud and Mankato are both up more than 2 percent, the Twin Cities are up 1.4 percent, and Duluth-Superior is up slightly, by two-tenths of a percent.