September was another month when hiring essentially froze in Minnesota.
But the state's unemployment rate fell one notch to 3.2% and wage growth soared, showing the job market remained more favorable for people looking for jobs than those trying to fill them and that recession does not seem to be near in Minnesota.
The state added just 100 jobs last month, according to preliminary data the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) released Thursday. Because the agency rounds data to the nearest hundred, the figure could be as little as 51 or as high as 150.
The agency in June reported the same preliminary figure for May, 100 new jobs, but it revised the May data in July to be an increase of 2,000 jobs.
On Thursday, it revised the August data to an increase of 400 jobs, down from the preliminary figure of an 1,100-job gain.
Cutting through the volatility of the monthly data, one trend has been clear: The pace of hiring has slowed sharply over the last year or so.
For the 12 months ended Sept. 30, Minnesota added just under 5,000 jobs. By contrast, coming out of the recession a decade ago, Minnesota routinely added more than 50,000 jobs a year. That pace gradually slowed, then dropped sharply over the last two years.
"At this point, those annual numbers are more telling," said Oriane Casale, a labor market analyst at DEED.
That 12-month figure amounts to a growth rate of 0.2% for the Minnesota workforce, well below the 1.5% growth rate nationally in the same period.
With Minnesota's unemployment rate below the nation's and wage growth above the nation's, employers' need for workers outstrips availability of them. Job vacancies hit an all-time high during the first half of the year.
And wages grew at a 6.3% rate for the 12 months ended Sept. 30.
Casale noted the longer-term data also shows that what little job growth is happening in Minnesota has become concentrated in a handful of sectors: construction, financial activities and leisure and hospitality.
This year, one sector that had grown strongly for years, education and health care, has fallen off significantly. Casale attributed that to a drop in hiring at nursing homes and in social assistance jobs. State officials are trying to understand that change since demand for elder care is already high and will rise further in coming years as baby boomers age.
In a statement, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said the agency is looking at ways to bring more people who are on the sidelines of the workforce into jobs.
"We're working to prepare people who have been out of the labor force to go to work, encouraging employers to reach out to people with disabilities and other groups with higher unemployment rates and seeking solutions to challenges facing people who want to work, including our state's growing child care shortage," Grove said.
But fewer Minnesotans are on the sidelines than in other states. Minnesota's labor-force participation rate rose a 10th of a point to 70.2% last month, the highest level in two years and well above the nation's rate of 63.2%.