Minnesota employers added 8,900 jobs in December, a stark contrast to losing 4,000 jobs in November, while the statewide unemployment rate dropped to 3.1 percent, the lowest rate since July 2000.

Construction led all sectors with 5,700 new jobs last month, followed by education and health services, which added 2,500 jobs, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) reported Thursday.

Trade, transportation and utilities jobs were up 1,800, and leisure and hospitality also added 1,800 jobs. Professional and business services lost 1,400 jobs in December. Manufacturing lost 600. Monthly jobs figures are subject to revision.

For all of 2017, Minnesota gained 44,200 jobs and saw a growth rate of 1.5 percent, matching the U.S. job growth rate, DEED said.

The report also touted a 12-month average unemployment rate for blacks in the state that it said reached 7.5 percent, down from an average of 8.8 percent in 2016. The state said 2017's average rate was the lowest rate since DEED started tracking that data in 2001.

"Workers are getting increasingly scarce," said Steve Hine, director of the Labor Market Information Office for DEED. "We're finally seeing that scarcity translate into ... racial minorities."

The Latino unemployment rate in 2017 was 5 percent, a 0.3 percentage point drop from to 2016, and the rate for white Minnesotans was at 2.9 percent, compared with 3 percent in 2016.

"Minnesota's economy has greatly improved over the last seven years, with our state's employers adding nearly 297,700 new jobs since January 2011. I am also very pleased to see that deep employment disparities among African-Americans in Minnesota are continuing to improve," said Gov. Mark Dayton in a statement Thursday.

"Despite this progress, we have more work to do to ensure that all Minnesotans, in every community across our state, have better access to employment opportunities and growing wages."

Over the last year, education and health services led all sectors in growth, adding 12,626 jobs; construction was up 9,394 jobs and trade, transportation and utilities gained 7,027 jobs.

Financial activities lost 808 jobs, and information lost 696 jobs — the only two state sectors that lost jobs in 2017.

"Minnesota's economy had a strong year, with nine of 11 major industrial sectors adding jobs in 2017 and unemployment at a 17-year low," said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy in Thursday's report. "As we enter 2018, we continue to make progress on ending Minnesota's economic disparities, and all economic indicators point to continued growth in the state's labor market."

All metro areas in Minnesota added jobs in 2017, led by 2.4 percent growth in the Twin Cities. Duluth-Superior had the second-highest job growth rate among metro areas, at 2.1 percent. Mankato was next with 1.7 percent, followed by St. Cloud at 1.2 percent and Rochester at 0.1 percent.

Olivia Johnson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for Star Tribune.