WASHINGTON — No big metro area in the country has a lower jobless rate than the Twin Cities, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Thursday.
Unemployment in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro was just 2.3 percent in October. That tied the Twin Cities with the Nashville, Tenn., metro for full employment.
The national unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in October.
The Twin Cities metro benefits from a very diverse economy, said Steve Hine, director of labor market information at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). It “has everything from medical technology and [information technology] to a lot of corporate headquarters. There is a strong presence in the leisure, hospitality and retail industries.”
The high education level of the workforce combines with a strong desire to work to keep Minnesotans in the job market, Hine said. “Generally, people here are better versed in how to find jobs,” Hine said.
The 2.3 unemployment number is “very low,” said Aaron Sojourner, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “Minnesotans should be proud and guard the skills and character that are valuable [to employers].”
Some seasonal employees, such as construction workers, were still on the job in October, likely helping the keep the jobless rate relatively low. That will not be the case for some of them as winter sets in. But jobless rates in the metro area and to some degree the entire state always seems to run below the national average.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro, which for BLS purposes includes 14 Minnesota counties and two in western Wisconsin, is not the only one doing well, Sojourner pointed out.
Year over year, the unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was down 1 percentage point. It was down 1.7 percentage points in Duluth, 1 percentage point in St. Cloud and 0.8 percentage points in Rochester.
The state’s job vacancy rate is also up, meaning the state is either creating jobs or having a hard time filling existing positions. Both situations lend themselves lower jobless rates.
“We’ve got a good thing going,” said Bill Blazar of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. “But as good news as this is, it gives additional urgency to making more qualified workers available to encourage economic growth.”
Workforce preparation programs that address a gap between open jobs and the skills needed to fill them remains a critical concern, Blazar said. So is the academic achievement gap between students in the state’s schools. Also, insuring that the state gets enough population growth to fill jobs will require keeping Minnesota open to immigrants, according to Blazar.
The ability to increase the working-age population as baby boomers retire has become a national dilemma. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants the Legislature to provide $6.8 million for a marketing program to attract more young people to his state to fill jobs, according to the Associated Press. Walker hopes to lure women and men from nearby Midwestern cities, including Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, Sojourner thinks the strong demand for workers in Minnesota will draw people into the state’s job market, even those who once had given up on finding employment.
Minnesota’s statewide unemployment of 3.3 percent is the lowest in 17 years, he said, and the jobless rate is falling faster in the state than in the nation.
Neither the country nor the state has had “consistent job growth longer than this,” Sojourner explained. “We’re down to the hardest cases of the unemployed.”