Did Minnesota manufacturing turn the corner in March?

Manufacturing’s a big deal in Minnesota and it’s been one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy. But did the state’s manufacturing sector bottom out earlier this spring?

I ask that after stumbling across some data today from the state Labor Department that surprised me and suggested — maybe — that a corner’s been turned. March saw:

  • A 2.2 percent increase in adjusted weekly manufacturing hours to 38.7 hours.
  • A 1.3 percent increase in adjusted weekly manufacturing earnings, to $696.58.

You can see it laid out better if you call up the graphics below.

No one’s reaching for the Champagne based on those numbers, which are still below their pre-recession peaks. But those are marked increases following steep declines.

We’ve had a bunch of people in our Public Insight Network tell us about having their manufacturing hours cut back in this recession. Earlier this spring, Joy Schwarz of Andover told us:

My husband works for an aluminum foundry and the business has gone down drastically. He recently got cut to 4 days a week, which is quite a bit of money for us. I work for a church and since people are hurting, giving is down as well. I am constantly in limbo since I could receive a pay cut at any time just so the church can make ends meet….

Manufacturing drives about 13 percent of Minnesota’s economy. The state’s lost more than 35,000 manufacturing jobs over the past year, according to Creighton University’s Minnesota Economic Outlook.

However, that report also expects Minnesota jobless rate to top out at 8.5 percent this quarter.

So maybe in a couple months we’ll be pointing at the March data as evidence of the start of something better.

In emailing about her family challenges, Joy Schwarz also noted that “we are using the time to spend quality family time together and are having to be creative when it comes to finding fun things to do.”

She headlined her email: “It’s going to be Okay!”

Check the map for stories other people have told us recently about the job climate in Minnesota, then tell us your story.

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