Brian Bakst, Associated Press Writer, Published May 20 2010
Minnesota unemployment rate falls to 7.2 percent in April; 10,200 jobs addedST. PAUL (AP) — The gap between Minnesota's unemployment rate and the national level is the widest on record, officials said Thursday as they released a report showing 10,200 jobs were added in the state in April.
The Minnesota jobless rate stood at a seasonally adjusted 7.2 percent, compared with 9.9 percent for the nation as a whole. Never since the state began its tracking in 1976 has the difference been as large, with the next largest disparity coming in 1992.
Steve Hine, research director at the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said there's a practical significance to the margin based on evidence from the 1990s when Minnesota also fared better than the national average.
"We became a real magnet" for people moving into the state, Hine said. "We were able to sustain the rates of job growth toward the end of that decade in large part because we had a steady inflow of available workers."
Agency commissioner Dan McElroy said Minnesota might be an attractive destination for out-of-work people from harder-hit places like Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
Still, Minnesota has a long way to go to rebuild its job base. Hine said the state has 134,000 fewer jobs than a pre-recession peak in February 2008, and more than 214,000 Minnesota residents are unemployed. Before this recession, the number of unemployed had never topped 200,000.
The 7.2 percent unemployment rate — a tenth better than the rate for March — is still considerably higher than the typical 4 percent throughout the early part of the century.
Hine doesn't expect Minnesota to sustain the growth that produced the April job gains. If the monthly additions were half the 10,000 from April, it would take three years to get back to pre-recession levels, he said.
The state's April job gains were seen in six of the 11 sectors the department tracks. The most came in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which saw a rise of 5,700 jobs last month. Governments, including cities and schools, added 2,200 jobs and the health care sector saw an increase of 1,600 jobs.
Job losses were seen in financial activities, professional business services and construction.
McElroy was restrained in his assessment of Minnesota's job picture.
"The signs continue to be somewhat encouraging, but I'm cautious," McElroy said. "We have yet to put together that three consecutive months of job growth that I've been hoping for."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.