Minnesota has regained 48 percent of jobs lost during Great Recession

Minnesota's private sector continues to rapidly recover from the Great Recession.
Minnesota's private sector continues to rapidly recover from the Great Recession.

Strong gains in the private sector helped Minnesota add 15,500 jobs in January, pushing the state's unemployment rate down to 5.6 percent, a level not seen since September 2008.

In total, Minnesota has now regained 74,900 of the 156,000 jobs lost during the Great Recession.

And believe it not, these aren't just food services jobs we're talking about: Many of the recently created positions are in high paying, professional fields.

Steve Hine, Minnesota director of labor market relations, told the Pioneer Press that "much of the [January's] strength came in the higher-paying, higher-skilled occupations."

Indeed, the number of Minnesota jobs in the professional and business services sector -- which includes attorneys, engineers, accountants, and computer professionals -- is now at an all-time high, the PiPress reports.

Recent growth has been driven by the private sector. Although the public sector trimmed 1,700 jobs in January and 7,900 positions total during 2011, the private sector added 27,200 jobs in December and January and 36,846 the last year as a whole.

Experts believe strong private sector growth will continue throughout 2012. The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank projects that the unemployment rate by the end of the year will fall to 4.9 percent. The state's unemployment rate hasn't been below 5 percent since February 2008.

In sum, Minnesota is headed in the right direction and continues to outperform the national economy. For instance, nationally, only 36 percent of the jobs lost during the recession have been regained and the unemployment rate sits at 8.3 percent.

The news isn't all good, however. Despite the improving job market, the number of people actually working or looking for work stood at 71.3 percent in January, the lowest percentage since the 1980s.

Hine said he believes that number will adjust upward as more baby boomers retire in upcoming years, but acknowledged that a good number of the 28.7 percent of Minnesotans not working or looking for work are discouraged workers who have given up on finding gainful employment. Hopefully some of those folks will resume their searches soon -- they might find more options available than was the case just a few months ago.

Related coverage:
-- State estimates $323 million surplus through 2013 budget cycle
-- Minnesota job market improved dramatically last year
-- Minnesota child poverty nearly doubled during last decade
-- Minnesota foreclosures down in 2011, but still well above pre-housing crisis levels

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