Minnesota employers added 11,800 jobs in February, a welcome gain after a drop in January, according to figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The agency also released revised figures showing that the number of jobs lost in January was 4,900, not 7,900 as initially reported.
“It jives with what I’m seeing on a lot of indicators,” said Toby Madden, who tracks the regional economy for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. “My contacts are saying that they’re growing and looking to hire.”
Also encouraging, he said, is that the growth is across most of the region and most industries.
Minnesota’s job growth lags behind national job growth, but that’s at least partly because Minnesota has less room for improvement. The state unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 5.5 percent.
That happened despite an unusual rise in the labor force participation rate, which grew to 70.2 percent in February, indicating more of the population is either working or looking for a job. The state labor force surpassed the 3 million mark for the first time on record.
Despite the good news on jobs, wages are not rising. Private sector pay dropped 2 cents an hour in February. While some companies like Wal-Mart and Target recently raised their pay floors, real wages are stagnant over the past 12 months.
“From an overall level, the average wage has certainly not been showing any evidence that we’re seeing employers compete for workers through higher wage offers,” said Steve Hine, labor market economist at the state. “It’s been something people have been watching for, wage earners have been hoping for.”
Retail added 5,900 jobs in February. Other sectors that gained jobs were leisure and hospitality, which added 4,200 jobs. Construction added 1,600, education and health services added 1,100, government added 400 and professional and business services added 200. Logging and mining held steady.
Manufacturing lost 600 jobs on the month. Financial activities shed 300 positions.
Over the past 12 months, all sectors have added jobs except information, which includes publishing, telecommunications and the news media, and construction, which was down only slightly.
Hine expects the warmer weather in March to help boost construction hiring when numbers for March are released in April.
Unemployment by race continues to be sharply disparate in Minnesota. White unemployment is 3.2 percent, Latino unemployment is 5.4 percent and black unemployment is 11.3 percent, according to estimates published by the state. While Latino unemployment has fallen dramatically in recent months, black unemployment has actually risen.
“The surprise here is not so much the improvement in the Hispanic unemployment rate as it is the lack of improvement in the black unemployment rate,” Hine said.
Among the state’s metropolitan areas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud all have added jobs since February 2014. The Duluth-Superior area was down 0.7 percent, however.