Verizon Wireless announced Thursday that it will add 160 workers to its customer service center in Mankato by the end of July.

The company plans to add 40 jobs a month, with each round of hires beginning work April 15, May 20, June 24 or July 29. Those hired will join 526 workers already working at the Mankato call center, and 1,359 Verizon employees scattered across Minnesota.

Verizon officials said that applications should be submitted online three weeks before each "new hire" class begins. Applicants are being asked to apply online at www.vzw

Verizon officials emphasized that "qualified applicants are being offered a $1,000 signing bonus" and that wages will generally start at $13.46 an hour. They also noted that the jobs come with benefits such as health care, a 401(k) plan with a partial company match and a tuition reimbursement program.

Labor economists said they often look closely at the types of employment that companies offer. To measure the strength of the labor market and economy they watch for "quality jobs" that come with a living wage, benefits and the promise of full-time work that is not just temporary.

Verizon officials insisted that its new jobs will be full-time posts and are needed because the firm is growing. As a result, "We are looking for energetic individuals with great people skills to help us provide an outstanding customer experience," said Mankato service center director Marie McVenes.

Seamus Hyland, president of Verizon Wireless' Great Plains region, which is based in Plymouth, said the company "is committed to offering resources to all our employees so they can grow their careers and take advantage of advancement opportunities with a leading technology company."

Verizon Wireless, which provides phone and computer service to 102.8 million retail customers, is the largest wireless company in the country. It is also the latest of many firms to nudge up Minnesota's employment.

State officials announced last week that Minnesota employers added 52,160 workers to their ranks between January 2013 and January 2014. Job gains for that full year occurred across all 11 sectors, including the business services category that includes call centers such as Verizon's.

Professional and business service firms added 6,337 workers for the 12 months ended in January. They added 900 in January alone.