Minnesota employers cut 1,300 jobs in February after hiring in record numbers in January, state officials announced Thursday.
Minnesota’s unemployment rate slid 0.1 percentage points last month to 3.2 percent, which was better than the national unemployment rate of 4.1 percent.
While February’s job losses — particularly the 4,600 lost in the professional services sector — were a disappointment, state officials noted that February’s decline “was more than offset by a revision in January’s figure. January figures were revised to show 4,900 job gains, up from the previously reported 2,500 positions.
During the past year, Minnesota increased its job numbers by 0.8 percent to 22,626 positions. To compare, the U.S. growth rate was 1.7 percent.
Still, state officials said they were pleased by the state’s low unemployment rate.
“Minnesota’s unemployment rate is at a level last seen in August 2000,” said Shawntera Hardy, commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “While that indicates a tight labor market, it translates into improving job opportunities for those who have struggled to find work in the past.”
She noted that unofficial estimates for the 12-month average of black unemployment fell from 7.4 percent in January to a new low of 6.9 percent in February. Similarly, the unemployment rate for Latinos fell from 4 percent to 3.3 percent over the month.
Economists said Minnesota’s tight labor market has made it hard for manufacturers, construction firms and repair-service firms to fill job vacancies and replace departing retirees. Labor economists said they expect the tight labor market to open doors for blacks, Latinos, American Indians, people with disabilities, seniors and other groups that have traditionally had a higher unemployment rate than the national average.
A recent survey of purchase managers by Creighton University and the Institute for Supply Management found that hiring remains strong across most industries in the Midwest and countrywide. Economist Ernie Goss at Creighton University said recent surveys in the Midwest suggest hiring should remain strong for the next three to six months.
In February, sectors driving job declines included professional and business services (down 4,600), government (down 1,100), information (down 500) and financial activities (down 400).
Minnesota industries adding workers during the month included leisure/hospitality sector (up 3,400), manufacturing (up 700) and education and health services (up 500).