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How Long Can This Go On?

Persistent job growth for six years

4/12/2017 3:00:00 PM

Minnesota’s unemployment rate remained at a steady 4 percent in February.

But two other ratios bear watching: The labor force participation rate increased (a tenth point) to 69.5 percent. The share of the working age population that is employed also edged up a tenth point to 66.7 percent. Each of these three have been within a tenth point or two of current values almost nonstop during the last three years despite the aging population. How much longer can this go on?

Go here for the complete DEED press release on the February numbers.  

Trade, transportation and utilities led all sectors in February with 5,700 new jobs. Retail shed a low – historically low – number of jobs. Grocery stores and auto dealers were strong; department stores, not at all.

Government had its 2nd consecutive substantial decline – 2,700 jobs lost in January and another 2,400 in February – with local government shedding 4,000 of these 5,100 jobs and state government losing another 1,000. In both cases, losses resulted from larger-than-normal declines in January with smaller-than-typical rehiring in February. State government remains down over a year ago, by 1,561 jobs or 1.5%, with 2,533 of these being state education jobs.

What’s trending in February’s wage and hours data:

  • The average workweek of private-sector employees slipped to 33.8 hours.
  • Private-sector average wage rates rose another 7 cents over the month to $28.27, a wage rate that is $1.73 or 6.5% higher than a year ago. Comparable wage gains at the national level have been 2.8% over the past year.

DEED examines the unemployment rate by demographics (race, age and gender) and looks at alternative measures of unemployment.

We’ve seen persistent job growth in the 1 to 2 percent per year range for the last six years and unemployment and labor force participation rates that have been barely budged for the last three years. If the rate at which working baby boomers leave the workforce for retirement accelerates, or there’s an unforeseen shock to the economy, this all could end. In the meantime, it’s stasis.

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