The number of job vacancies rose 26 percent in Minnesota in the first half of the year, surpassing the number of unemployed people in the state for the first time since 2001, the state jobs agency said Thursday.
Minnesota employers said they had 122,900 job vacancies in June, one of the two times a year the state makes a count. That's the highest number since the state started the survey in the first half of 2001, when the figure was 115,072.
Coupled with its monthly employment survey, which showed about 112,000 Minnesotans without work in June, the new data from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) indicates the state continues to have one of the tightest labor markets in the country.
Like other places, the state job scene is being shaped by an accelerating rate of retirements in the vast baby boomer generation and steady, modest increases in the number of jobs.
"It's largely being driven by demographics," said Oriane Casale, an analyst at DEED. "Barring a major recession, we might continue like this for a while."
The agency reported last month that Minnesota added nearly 50,000 jobs in the 12 months ended August, a growth rate of 1.7 percent that brought the overall job base to just over 3 million. The nation's growth was 1.5 percent for the period.
Thursday's job vacancy data also showed that the growing demand for workers was continuing to push wages higher in Minnesota, though at a slightly slower rate than seen last year. The median hourly pay for job openings at the end of June was $14.39, up from $14 a year earlier and $12.99 at the midpoint of 2015.
As the number of job openings grew, the quality declined. More of the openings this year were for part-time or temporary work and a smaller percentage required a college education.
While low-wage positions always make up a larger share of job vacancies, the increase is partly a reflection of part-time workers moving up the ladder into full-time jobs, Casale said.
"Because of this really hot market, people are able to move into slightly higher-wage occupations using some of the skills and experience they gained in lower-wage jobs," he said.
Of the job openings reported in June, about 44 percent were for part-time work, a job requiring less than 35 hours per week. That's up from 35 percent of the openings that were available at midyear 2016. About 15 percent of the job openings were for temporary, or seasonal, work, up from 11 percent a year ago.
The number of job vacancies grew about 37 percent in the seven-county metro region from a year ago, and the region represented 60 percent of all the vacancies in the state in June. In the other 80 counties, job vacancies grew about 13 percent.
The new data amounts to 0.8 unemployed people per job vacancy in the seven-county metro region. In the rest of the state, there were 1.1 unemployed people for each vacancy.