Job-hunting in Minnesota should be getting a little easier.

The number of job vacancies across the state climbed 15 percent in the second quarter, reaching their highest level since 2007.

The state had 63,000 openings, up from 54,700 last year, according to a survey released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The report is good news for the state economy, but demand for workers appears to be concentrating in the high-skill and low-skill extremes of the labor market.

"What jumps out to me is how dramatically different wages are for high-skilled vs. lower-skilled occupations," said Oriane Casale, a labor market economist for the department. "There's just a majority of jobs out there that are really low-wage and somewhat low-skill."

A third of Minnesota's vacancies are in jobs with the lowest pay -- retail sales, food service, and other service jobs where the median wage hovers around $8.50 per hour. The number of vacancies in those categories grew 24 percent in the past year.

But well-paying industries also are looking to hire. The state has 4,100 openings in computer, math, architecture and engineering jobs, an 18 percent increase over the past year. The median wage in those professions is about $30 per hour.

Statewide, there were 2.6 unemployed people for each job vacancy at the end of June, compared with 3.6 unemployed people per vacancy at the same time a year earlier.

"The cyclical drivers of unemployment in the state have really kind of come to an end," said Peter Ferderer, an economist at Macalester College in St. Paul. "There's still a lot of unemployment, but it's frictional or structural."

Ferderer cited the skills mismatch as a reason -- either companies can't find people with the right skills, or people who have a certain skill would rather wait for the right job than accept a job offer for lower pay. Ferderer isn't bothered by the fact that the median pay for all vacancies is $11.06 per hour, a figure that's held roughly steady since 2007.

"If eleven dollars an hour is the wage that clears the market, than well, that's what it is," he said.

Another bright spot in the report was rising vacancy in education, training, and library jobs. The category includes preschool teachers, Casale said, which is a good sign, showing that both spouses in a family may be getting back to work, forcing them to pay for day care.

"The fact that was up kind of indicates the labor market might be getting back to a normal place," Casale said.

According to the survey, 34,600 vacancies -- or 54.9 percent of the state total -- were in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. Compared with a year ago, job vacancies were up 16.8 percent in the Twin Cities and 39.8 percent in outstate Minnesota.

Jobs in health care and social assistance accounted for the most vacancies, at 16.5 percent.

Minnesota added 6,800 jobs in July, according to preliminary figures. Of the 156,300 jobs Minnesota lost between the top of the housing boom in February 2008 and the bottom of the bust in September 2009, the state has now clawed back 86,400, or 55 percent.

Expect more job news in coming weeks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its closely watched monthly jobs report for August on Sept. 7.

Minnesota's jobs report for August will come out in mid-September.

Adam Belz • 612-673-4405