Minnesota's economy shed 1,900 jobs in May, as the mining, manufacturing and construction sectors shrank.
The statewide jobless rate held steady at 3.8 percent, one of the best in the country, the state's economic development agency reported Thursday. But the flip side of the strength was apparent in another trend reinforced by the new numbers: The state's job scene is one of the slowest-growing in the country.
In part, that's because so many Minnesotans are working. The labor force participation rate — the share of working-age people either working or looking for a job — leads the nation at 71 percent. "Our labor market conditions here are as tight as they are anywhere," said Steve Hine, the state labor market analyst.
With May's data, Minnesota added just under 28,000 jobs in the last 12 months, a growth rate of 1 percent. Nationally, jobs grew 1.7 percent in the same period.
But the state-level numbers are subject to volatility because of their smaller base. The sluggishness last month came after April's data showed the state's second-best month of private job creation since 1990.
After adding a revised 14,400 jobs in April, the state's private sector lost 4,600 jobs in May. The overall loss would have been more stark had local and state government not added 2,400 jobs during the month.
Private education and health care are driving Minnesota job growth. The two sectors added 19,200 jobs in the past 12 months, nearly two-thirds of the 30,300 seasonally adjusted jobs added in the state over that period.
"Private ed has persistently been up," Hine said. The growth in health care jobs has been mostly in ambulatory health care services, which includes outpatient medical workers and home health aides.
Job growth is going to be sluggish for some time, Hine said, because the labor force is growing so slowly.
The state's employment-to-population ratio — the share of the total population that has a job — slipped two-tenths of a percentage point to 68.3 percent, but it's still the highest in the nation, ahead of second-place North Dakota.
High-skill workers are in high demand in Minnesota. The state has added 4,100 professional, scientific and technical jobs in the past 12 months. Those jobs include lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, software developers, consultants and many other professional types of work. Only construction, private education and health care have added more jobs in Minnesota over that period.
Estimated unemployment among blacks fell to 10.7 percent in May, while the jobless rate for Hispanic or Latino workers fell slightly, to 4.9 percent. White unemployment in Minnesota held steady at 2.9 percent.
Of the state's five major urban areas, only Duluth-Superior has seen a job decline in the past 12 months, falling 1.3 percent. Minneapolis-St. Paul is up 1.5 percent, Rochester is up 1.5 percent, St. Cloud is up 1.8 percent and Mankato is up 1.2 percent.