Minnesota’s job market posted solid gains in August, making up July losses and setting the state economy on track to roll into 2016 at a slow, steady pace.
“I think our trajectory is flattening out,” said Steve Hine, the labor market analyst at the state.
Minnesota employers added 7,300 jobs in August. The increase announced Thursday, combined with July figures that were revised upward by 2,800 jobs, brought job gains in the state to 38,037 in the past 12 months, a marked deceleration from the previous two years, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Jobs in Minnesota have grown 1.3 percent since August 2014, well below the 2.1 percent growth rate nationally.
Hines sees a flatter trajectory for hiring in Minnesota in part because of the long-warned decline of the state’s labor force. The number of people either working or looking for work in the state shrank by nearly 13,000 in the month. The workforce has lost 33,000 people since May, and the trend is expected to continue.
“There’s just not going to be enough warm bodies to fill all these positions,” Hine said.
Hine said he has seen evidence of lower-wage workers rushing to higher-wage jobs as employers grow more hungry for skilled workers, which is creating shortages for restaurants, factories and the building trades.
The state unemployment rate held steady in August at a seasonally adjusted 4 percent, compared with a U.S. unemployment rate of 5.1 percent.
The August gains were led by health care, which added 5,000 jobs. Professional and business services, which includes everything from lawyers and computer programmers to office building janitors, added 4,600 jobs. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, hotels and recreational businesses, also added 4,600.
Government lost 5,000 jobs for the month, mostly as local government shed workers. Manufacturing lost 1,000 and construction lost 200.
“The Minnesota labor market posted healthy gains in August, particularly in the private sector,” said department Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben in a statement. “Private employers added more than 12,000 jobs during the month.”
While the overall unemployment rate stayed at 4 percent, not all groups are enjoying such low levels of joblessness.
Estimates of black unemployment rose again, to 15.9 percent. The estimates are crude, by the state’s own admission, but they show a startling rise in black unemployment over the past 12 months, from 10.2 percent a year ago.
Coupled with new data showing the median household income of blacks in Minnesota plunged in 2014, the jobless figures highlight the challenges faced by roughly 300,000 blacks in Minnesota’s economy.
The estimate of Hispanic unemployment dropped to 3.2 percent, only slightly higher than white unemployment, which is 2.8 percent.