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Minnesota jobs, hours worked increase in July

Minnesota employers added 11,300 jobs to payrolls in July, capping a two-month run that has boosted the state workforce by 21,000 jobs.

The additions are part of a year-long winning streak that has seen 44,034 new jobs created in the state, according to employment figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The job additions also set a record, bringing total employment in the state to 2.9 million for the first time in history.

DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy said the growth is “a strong indication that the economy is continuing to grow.”

Big gains in leisure and hospitality and the trade, transportation and utilities sectors led the growth. But DEED reported the new jobs did not seem to affect the unemployment rate, which rose 0.1 percent from June to 3.9 percent.

Oriane Casale, assistant director of DEED’s Labor Market Information Office, said the unemployment rate may not be an accurate indicator of the jobless picture in the state. It is drawn from a monthly survey of 908 Minnesota households, while job creation numbers come from state employer payroll data.

Casale said the unemployment rate in July may actually range between 3.4 and 4.4 percent.

“We are a bit skeptical about the household employment numbers,” she said during a conference call.

The state unemployment rate was lower than the national average of 4.9 percent last month.

Nine of the state’s 11 major employment sectors notched job growth in July. The top gainer was leisure and hospitality with 3,400 new jobs. The trade, transportation and utilities sector was the runner-up with 2,100 new jobs. Other sectors seeing significant growth were other services with 1,800 new jobs and construction with 600. Manufacturing was the only loser, shedding 200 jobs. The logging sector registered no change since June.

Minnesota employers have added 32,400 jobs year to date.

Casale said black workers in particular have benefitted from a strong jobs economy. She said the 8.7-percent jobless rate among Minnesota blacks was the lowest rate in the past decade and well below the 15.5 percent recorded one year ago. White unemployment was at 2.9 percent in July.

Even with more workers on the job in July, some wound up working more hours. Construction workers had the longest hours in any industry category, averaging 41 per week. Leisure and hospitality workers saw the lowest number of hours on their weekly schedules, averaging 23.7. The average workweek among private Minnesota employers in July was 34.1 hours.

Dave Semerad, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota, said longer workweeks in his industry are typical as summer wears on toward autumn.

“I think what it is, now we’re getting to the end of the summer and contractors are trying to catch up on the schedule before the weather gets bad,” he said Thursday. “They’re going gangbusters now.”

According to DEED, Minnesota is still slightly behind the national job growth trend over the past 12 months. The state’s 1.5 percent job growth rate trails the 1.7 percent national rate. The state has added 44,034 jobs to the workforce since July 2015.

All the state’s metropolitan areas have seen job gains over the past 12 months. Employment in the Twin Cities has risen 1.9 percent year over year. Rochester and St. Cloud each recorded 2.9 percent growth, followed by Mankato at 1.7 percent and Duluth-Superior at 0.1 percent.

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