Nuggets from the latest MN jobless data

Sometimes it takes two or three looks at the state’s monthly jobless data report to find stuff you didn’t see in the first run.

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We spent some time trolling through the release and accompanying data.

and found some additional stuff worth vetting.

Labor force found? Back in the summer we started looking at the big drops in Minnesota’s labor force and asking why so many people were leaving.

Before yesterday, the labor force decline looked like this, a drop of more than 30,000 since April (click on the chart for a larger view).

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With revisions and benchmarking, the state data now show the labor force down about 9,000 from April. Here’s what the revised chart looks like.

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It’s hard to argue statistical revisions. We’ll trust that the current data is the best look at what’s been happening. The good news here is there are far fewer individuals being counted as leaving the workforce.

The bad news is that the labor force participation rate — the percentage of working age people who have a job or are unemployed and seeking a job — remains at levels not seen since the late 1980s.

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The same is true for Minnesota’s employment to population ratio — the proportion of the state’s working age population that is employed.

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As we’ve noted before, in a recovering economy, the opposite should be happening — discouraged workers who left the work force in bad times are supposed to be returning along as opportunities increase.

So while the revised labor force numbers look better than the old, the fundamental worries are still there. When people are not participating in the work force, it’s a good bet they aren’t producing goods or services, spending money to fuel the economy (housing and retail come to mind) or generating taxable income to pay for public programs.

No question that the 4,604 drop in the labor force was a factor in the drop in Minnesota’s unemployment rate to 6.7 percent. If you’re out of the labor force you don’t get counted as unemployed.

This is an ongoing worry across the nation. Today’s drop in the national unemployment rate to 8.9 percent is great news. But the participation rate dropped again. The last time there was such a low percentage of working age people not in the work force? 1984.

Manufacturing not as great as we thought.For all the gloom in the state’s jobs picture during 2010, manufacturing appeared to be the bright spot. In January, the state said manufacturing gained 10,700 jobs in 2010, beating every other sector in the first full year of recession recovery.

The latest revised data show only a 4,900 year-over-year job gain now.

Now we’re told “education and health services” has driven most of the job growth the past 12 months. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But are those the kinds of jobs to help get the economy rolling?

If you look at the job categories where things get made — construction and manufacturing — the state’s only gained 600 jobs over the past year.

Officials still believe Minnesota won’t recover all the jobs lost in the Great Recession until mid-2013, two-plus years to go.

Take a look at the report and data and tell me what you see.

Later today, we’ll take a look at a Minnesota employment gap that isn’t closing.

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