State economy still a mixed bag, but hope growing

The Minnesota economy is slowly beginning to show signs of life. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is trumpeting that, after adjustments, the number of Minnesotans working in December reached an all-time high for December.

Still, the growth is a mixed bag. For the second consecutive month, DEED said that the labor force participation rate is below 70 percent for the first time since 1975.

That may be because baby boomers are retiring, or it may be because too many people have quit looking out of discouragement.

We’ll take the good news where we can find it, however. The January employment number, while lower than December because of seasonal layoffs is also an all-time high for that month.

On the local level, the jobless rate is not quite as bright. With 15,994 people employed in the county in December, that is the lowest total for that month since 2009. Most of the growth in Central Minnesota is taking place in the regional center, St. Cloud.

While Morrison County lost 74 jobs from December 2012, Stearns County added 520 and Benton County added 135.

Statewide, one great sign that the economy is recovering is that manufacturing led the growth in jobs, up about 2,000. Also showing healthy increases were the education and health care sectors, up 1,200, and professional and business services, up 900.

Sectors showing the biggest declines were trade, transportation and utilities, down about 3,200; financial activities, down 1,200; information, down 1,100; construction, down 900; and government, down 300.

With inflation beginning to creep up, it is a struggle to keep the economy headed in the right direction, but if politicians and policymakers stay focused on sound economics that grow businesses, there is no reason the economy can’t return to the way it was in the 1990s and early 2000s.