Good and bad in MN jobless data

Minnesota’s unemployment data for November shows a slight improvement in the percentage of jobless Minnesotans. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the data.

First here are some thoughts from St. John’s University economist and regular MPR News contributor Louis Johnston

Here is what I see: The labor market has stabilized this fall. Specifically, the unemployment rate and the employment-population ratio (my two favorite measures) are essentially unchanged since September.

The big question going forward is whether or not the job market will remain at these levels of employment and unemployment for the foreseeable future.

I do not agree with (MN employment and economic development) Commissioner McElroy that, “State labor markets continue to show signs of improvement.” There is improvement only in terms of this month relative to last month. The overall picture remains cloudy.

Manufacturing, arguably, remains the biggest single worry in the jobless data. It represents roughly 13 percent of the state labor force but more than 40 percent of the unemployment.

Today’s data show an over-the-year drop of 36,500 manufacturing jobs. That’s better than the last report which showed those losses topping 40,000.

McElroy said he was encouraged by a “steady uptick in the average amount of hours worked, another sign of strengthening market conditions.”

Problem is we saw signs of that earlier this year in manufacturing and we’re still in a deep jobs hole.

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Bottom line: We’re doing better than the nation (10 percent unemployment) but the people who are telling you the recovery will feel more like a long slow climb out of a big dark hole are right, at least when it comes to job growth.

Here’s the historical data on Minnesota’s unemployment. Take a look at that and today’s press release and tell me what you take away from the numbers.

Post below or contact me directly.

BONUS INFO: My colleague Bob Collins, writer of MPR’s excellent News Cut blog, has more detail and thoughts on the unemployment data. Check it out.

Also, here’s MPR’s news story.

SUPER BONUS INFO: Johnston was kind enough to recall that I predicted Minnesota unemployment would not top the 8.4 percent it hit in June. “I’m glad I was wrong; the mining industry held up much better than I thought it would given the disruptions in the manufacturing sector.”

I appreciate it and believe me when I tell you that you do not want to put your money on me as an economic forecaster. He was right and I was a wrong back in July when I concluded Minnesota manufacturing had turned the corner in March.

I’ll chalk this one to optimism and hope my prediction continues to hold, because we’re not through this yet.

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