What will Tuesday’s jobless data tell us?

Gulp! was the expression we used last month when we wrote about Minnesota’s unemployment data.

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We were hoping that December data would show we had turned the corner.

Instead, jobs took a cliff dive – 22,400 fewer jobs in December versus November, the biggest monthly drop since at least 1990, losses that chopped the state’s over-the-year job gains nearly in half.

So forgive us a little wincing as we wait for January’s data, due Tuesday. For every good employment sign, it seems we get one that doesn’t look so great.

We keep coming back to this graph showing Minnesota still has far more job seekers than openings.

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Better than 2009 but still not great.

As we’ve noted in prior posts, we have a wide, persistent gap between job openings and people who need jobs and worries that many of the unemployed don’t have the skills to fill the jobs that will open up and grow into the future.

Here and in the nation we also have the equally weird phenomenon of people continuing to exit the workforce despite the economic recovery.

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The state’s jobless rate edged down to 7 percent in December, which in most cases would be grounds for applause. It’s not.

Even if Tuesday’s data show the jobless rate edged down again in January, we’ll all need to look behind the data: Did the economy add jobs? Have those 30,000-plus Minnesotans who’ve left the labor force since last spring started to return yet?

Until we can feel good about that data, the jobless rate won’t mean much.

Tell us what you’re seeing in the job market around you. Post something below or contact us directly at MinnEcon.

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