Minn. unemployment rate drops to lowest level since 2001

Published 10:51 am Friday, December 18, 2015

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in nearly 15 years, according to a state jobs report released Thursday.

The state Department of Employment and Economic Development put November’s seasonally adjusted rate at 3.5 percent. That’s the lowest since March 2001.

Employers added 7,200 jobs last month and there was a revision showing another small gain instead of a loss for October. Nine of the industrial sectors that the agency tracks gained jobs in November, with only manufacturing and miscellaneous services losing ground.

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Minnesota’s jobless rate in November is still better than the national average of 5 percent. But the state’s year-over-year employment growth rate of 1.1 percent has been slower than the national average of 1.9 percent.

State officials have begun focusing on a newer worry: a tightening labor market fed by a mismatch between job openings and qualified workers available. Agency research director Steve Hine said a wave of retirements among baby boomers combined with general constraints on the labor force will cause the rate of job growth in Minnesota to slow in the future.

“We can only add jobs at the rate we are adding workers to fill them,” he said.

But Hine said that should also mean good news for people in the market for a new job because employers must do more to compete for talent.

“We’re going to see conditions where employers are going to have to attract new workers through increasingly high wage rate offers,” he said.