Minnesota's jobs recovery accelerated sharply last month, with the state adding 17,100 jobs, new data showed Thursday.

It was one of the biggest moves upward on the state jobs scene all year and came in a month when the expiration of enhanced, pandemic-related unemployment benefits may have driven more people to seek work.

The biggest gain was in leisure and hospitality employers, who added 9,800 jobs, adding to the turnaround in a sector that was hit hard by pandemic-related slowdowns and closings.

The state's unemployment rate ticked downward by one-tenth percentage point to 3.7%, the state Department of Employment and Economic Development reported.

"Job growth is up, and so are wages — that's a good thing," Steve Grove, the agency's commissioner, said in a statement.

With September's movement, Minnesota has recovered about 290,000, or 70%, of the 416,000 jobs it lost when the coronavirus outbreak led to a business shutdowns in early 2020. Through August, the state had recovered 66% of those jobs.

While many Minnesotans remain out of work, DEED noted that the broader effect has been complicated to measure. The exit of many people from the labor force has created an unemployment rate that is lower than would be expected in such a downturn.

The state's labor force participation rate rose one-tenth percentage point to 67.9%. That's well above the rate for the nation as a whole of 61.6% for September.

The other sectors that showed substantial job gains were trade, transportation and utilities; professional business services and construction. Each added more than 2,300 jobs.

The financial activities and government sectors reported job losses in September.

Manufacturers, trucking and busing firms, retailers and restaurants have all complained about the shortage of workers. Grove, economists and other market watchers attribute the shortage to a mix of events, including baby boomer retirements, the high cost of child care and the delta variant causing more COVID-19 cases.

Grove said Thursday that average wages in Minnesota and nationally have risen "significantly over the past year as a result of the tight labor market."

Average hourly earnings for all private sector workers rose 25 cents to $32.97 from August to September.

For the year, average hourly earnings jumped 3.7% or $1.17. They have risen 7.4% since 2019.

The recent wage increases, Grove said, are rising "faster than is typical."

Angie Jonus, human resources manager for the Shakopee-based One Way Wireless Construction firm, happily hired eight new tower climbers last month.

"We did well in September," she said. The 89-employee company can normally hire four to six people a month and struggles with job candidates who initially apply but then do not follow up or do interviews.

"It's been pretty bleak out there," she said.

Some candidates admitted they were trying to fulfill state job-searching requirements. Some did not call back.

To open its prospects, One Way Wireless now has a "Second Chance" program that offers to train and hire former prisoners. Pay starts at $19.25 an hour, Jonus said.