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Minnesota gains 600 jobs in harsh January weather

In the winter of our discontent, Minnesota as a whole eked out a net gain of 600 jobs in January while the construction industry lost jobs, according to a report released Thursday by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.

January marked the sixth consecutive month of job gains. For the workforce as a whole, the state added 52,160 jobs over the past year, an increase of 1.9 percent. Revisions to the December total also put Minnesota above 2.8 million jobs for the first time in state history, DEED reported.

The state’s overall unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in January compared with 5.3 percent a year earlier. The state reported the same unemployment rate in December, still lower than the national unemployment rate of 6.6 percent.

The construction industry, which traditionally slows in winter, lost 900 jobs. But the sector continues to post the biggest year-over-year jobs growth rate of any employment sector in the state. It has added 9,562 jobs since January 2013 for an 11.9 percent gain. That’s 3 ½ times the national rate of 3.4 percent for construction job growth.

“I think some people are trying to get ahead of interest rates. They figure interest rates are going up,” said Chad Kompelien, president of the Builders Association of Minnesota and chief financial officer for Willmar-based Mike Kompelien Custom Homes Inc.

Steve Hine, research director of DEED’s Labor Market Information Office, said the agency’s data do not indicate what specific construction projects played a role in driving this growth. But he said it’s reasonable to conclude that developments like the new Vikings stadium have helped.

“I certainly would observe, as you would, that a lot of these large construction projects are contributing to the growth that we’ve seen,” Hine said.

Even so, Kompelien said, this winter’s frigid temperatures “cut down production seriously.”

“Considering our weather,” Hine said during a press conference, “I would expect to see some of this volatility from month to month even out.”

The industry also faces a shortage of skilled workers like carpenters, electricians and plumbers, Kompelien said. Many of those workers left the industry during the recession and few new workers enrolled in training programs at that time because they saw it as a dead end. The result is more workers leaving than coming in.

“I kind of think we had a lost decade of skilled trades, and that’s going to take some time to recoup,” he said.

Construction jobs in the state peaked at 146,052 in August 2005. The industry count is down 56,000 jobs from that peak as of January.

The January jobs numbers were released in March instead of February because of an annual revision of the employment data by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state’s trade, transportation and utilities sector was the hardest hit in January, losing 3,200 jobs. Still, the jobs are up 2 percent over January 2013.

Meanwhile, professional, scientific and technical services, a subsector of professional business services that includes architects and engineers, added 500 jobs, in January, Hine said. That’s a 1.4 percent improvement over January 2013.

In all, Minnesota has regained 190,400 jobs since the low point of the recession in September 2009, according to seasonally adjusted figures.

Mankato, with a 2.6 percent increase in jobs since January 2013, had the fastest growth among the state’s five metropolitan statistical areas. The Twin Cities was third at 1.5 percent. Rochester, which lost 354 jobs, was the only area to have fewer jobs than the year before.

“Even with January’s extremely cold weather, hardworking Minnesotans continued to generate jobs,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben in a prepared release. “We’re particularly encouraged by the breadth of the labor market recovery, with all 11 of the state’s industrial sectors gaining jobs in the past year.”


Minnesota year-over-year employment growth by industry sector as of Jan. 31, 2014

Total non-farm employment: +52,160, +1.9%

Logging and mining: +53, +0.8%

Construction: +9,562, +11.9%

Manufacturing: +4,809, +1.6%

Trade, trans. and utilities: +10,245, +2.0%

Information: +1,434, +2.7%

Financial activities: +201, +0.1%

Prof. and bus. services: +6,337, +1.9%

Education and health services: +11,448, +2.4%

Leisure and hospitality: +3,597, +1.5%

Other services: +2,874, +2.5%

Government: +1,600, +0.4%

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

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