State labor force tops 3 million as unemployment rate holds at 3.7 percent for seventh month

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Minnesota's labor force topped 3 million as unemployment remained at its low level for the seventh month in a row.

Employers added nearly 12,000 jobs in February, mostly in trade, transportation and utilities and hospitality and leisure, the state economic development agency said. February's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, around the same as it's been since last August.

Retailers shed fewer jobs in February than is typical, said Steve Hine, labor research director at the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Minnesota's unemployment rate is still below the national average, which ticked down to 5.5 percent last month. The state's employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rate both increased slightly.

Sectors that lost jobs were manufacturing, financial activities, other services and information.

About 111,000 Minnesotans were listed as unemployed in February. That's less than half the number the state saw during the recession.

But the 12-month average unemployment rate for African Americans was 11.3 percent, compared with 3.2 percent for whites, Hine said.

"So that certainly continues to be a significant imbalance in our labor markets," Hine said. "Certainly an area where we leave plenty of room for improvement."

The 12-month average unemployment rate for Hispanics was 5.4 percent in February, Hine said, a big drop from last summer.

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