After languishing this summer, Minnesota's job market ended 2015 on a strong note, adding about 9,000 jobs for the second consecutive month.
The state had a net addition of 42,485 jobs for all of 2015, a 1.5 percent increase, though below the U.S. employment growth rate of 1.9 percent during the year.
Minnesota's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in December was 3.5 percent, down slightly from a revised 3.6 percent in November. The U.S. unemployment rate in December was 5 percent.
Minnesota employers added 9,100 jobs in December, while November's gain was revised upward from 7,200 to 9,200.
"This was a much needed reversal of the summertime slump that produced a net decline of 1,800 jobs between June and October," Steve Hine, the state's labor economist, wrote in a monthly analysis.
Wage growth has also picked up in Minnesota over the past three months, rising 2 percent or more in each month, Hine said in an interview. That comes after 18 months of wage growth below 1 percent.
State and national employment reports the past couple of months allay some fears about the economy's fragility, Hine said. "They are kind of showing the economy is continuing to expand and is not likely to tip into a recession."
Minnesota's labor market is not uniformly tight, Hine said.
The average unemployment rate for African Americans over the past year was about 14 percent, compared to 2.5 percent for white people and 3.8 percent for Hispanics.
Geographically, most of Minnesota's job growth has been occurring in the Twin Cities, which posted a 1.8 percent job gain in 2015 over 2014. In Duluth, employment was up 0.5 percent last year, while it rose 0.1 percent in Mankato. Rochester experienced a 0.3 percent decline in 2015, and jobs fell 0.1 percent in St. Cloud.
Eight of Minnesota's 11 major industrial sectors added employees in December, led by government with 4,300 new jobs. That growth came from local education, Hine said.
The other top sectors for job gains in December were leisure and hospitality — up 2,800 — and education and health services, which was up 2,100.
However, professional and business services lost 3,200 jobs during the month, and the trade, transportation and utilities sector was down 2,000.
For the year, the top three sectors for job growth and the number of employees added were: education and health services, 12,680; leisure and hospitality, 11,348; and professional and business services, 10,468.
Three sectors lost jobs during 2015: mining and logging, down 1,380; information, down 1,103; and other services, down 530.
"Nearly all signs point to continued growth in Minnesota in 2016," Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said in a press statement.