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Minnesota construction jobs rebound in February

The state’s construction sector made a slight rebound after four consecutive months of losses, according to the most recent jobs report.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development on Thursday reported the state’s construction industry added 1,600 jobs in February after losing 1,700 jobs in January. The industry has shed about 3,800 total jobs since last fall.

Though the bounce back is expected to continue with the return of spring weather, the sector is down 49 jobs year-over-year or 0.1 percent.

DEED reports there were 106,000 seasonally adjusted construction jobs throughout the state in February – the highest count for the month since 2008, when the sector had 115,900 jobs.

Steve Hine, research director of DEED’s Labor Market Information Office, expects the March report (to be released in April) to offset the “soft spot” in the state’s construction industry.

“March’s numbers are going to tell us a great deal more about what we should expect to see from the sector in the coming months,” he said.

The state’s economy as a whole added 11,800 jobs in February – following a “disappointment” in January, Hine said. DEED initially reported 7,900 jobs lost in January, but that number was revised downward to 4,900. Minnesota had more than 2.83 million jobs in February 2015 – an increase of 1.7 percent over last year.

The state’s unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent for the seventh consecutive month. The national unemployment rate in February was 5.5 percent.

While unemployment held steady, the state’s workforce participation rate ticked up to 70.2 percent, which pushed the total labor force past 3 million for the first time on record. The state previously announced its workforce had exceeded 3 million last year, but the numbers were revised.

February’s job growth was largely driven by the 5,600 jobs added in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. The growth in the sector could be driven by retailers shedding fewer jobs than is typical after the holiday season, Hine said.

“Retailers are retaining a larger share of their employment going forward than they have in the past,” he said.

The last 12 months have been strong employment growth in the professional and business services sector, which added 13,374 jobs for an overall growth rate of 3.9 percent. The jobs in that category include accounting, engineering and information technology which have some of the highest wages, Hine noted.

The 1,700 layoffs at Minneapolis-based Target Corp.’s headquarters, which started earlier this month, will likely be reflected in the jobs report released in April.

Over the last year, job losses have been seen in these in these construction fields: residential construction (down 2.6 percent), heavy/civil construction (down 1.5 percent), specialty trades (down 0.5 percent) and building equipment contractors (down 3.4 percent). Still, jobs were added in building construction (up 1.8 percent) and “foundation, structure and building exterior” contractors (up 0.1 percent).

The February increase is a bit surprising because it was a cold month, said Phil Raines, vice president of public affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Minnesota and North Dakota. With the warm snap in March, Raines said he anticipated an earlier than usual start to the construction season. Many contractors are hiring on workers in anticipation of a strong season, he said.

The jobs numbers aren’t necessarily a sign that the state lacks construction opportunities, Raines said.

“It’s a common complaint of members: We have plenty of work and we don’t have enough people,” Raines said. “If we could find more people, we could take more jobs.”

Action at the state Capitol could also bolster the construction industry. Raines said a long-term transportation bill would fund a backlog of projects and create jobs while workforce training proposals at the state level would help address labor shortages.

The Jobs Picture

Minnesota year-over-year employment growth by industry sector as of February 2015


Number of Jobs Gained or Lost % Change from 2014
Total Non-Farm Employment 45,414 1.7
Logging and Mining 97 1.4
Construction -49 -0.1
Manufacturing 5,259 1.7
Trade, Trans. and Utilities 8,202 1.6
Information -339 -0.6
Financial Activities 502 0.3
Prof. and Bus. Services 13,374 3.9
Ed. and Health Services 9,411 1.9
Leisure and Hospitality 6,044 2.6
Other Services 2,870 2.6
Government 43 0

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

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