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Local job growth takes off

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Steve Hine, state labor economist

The Rochester metro area added 2,813 jobs in the past year, its fastest growth in three years, according to January employment numbers released Thursday by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The 2.5 percent increase was the highest percentage increase of any metro area in the state. During that same period, the state's job growth rate was 1.4 percent, and the nation's was 2.4 percent.

DEED labor market analyst Steve Hine said Rochester's job numbers were revised upward in December by 1,570 jobs, almost all in health care jobs.

"(Rochester) had a much better year than we originally estimated," Hine said, adding that those jobs were initially missed probably because they were in new businesses in the health-care sector.

Rochester's January job increase was largely driven by an increase of 2,248 jobs in the education and health-care jobs, clearly reflecting growth at Mayo Clinic and affiliated companies.

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The other major growth area was construction, with an increase of 277 jobs, or 7.7 percent. Several major construction projects are underway in Rochester, as the Destination Medical Center initiative is sparking economic activity.

Health care remains a strong, growing sector, said Hine, adding January also saw growth in nursing home employment for the first time in seven years.

Statewide, DEED officials say Minnesota's unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent in January even though employers cut 5,000 jobs during the month. DEED says 3,800 of those jobs were eliminated in the government sector.

Despite those losses, DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said Thursday that Minnesota's labor market remains on a growth track, with eight of the 11 major industrial sectors adding jobs over the past year. Minnesota's labor force participation rate hit a three-year high of 70.5 percent.

Statewide, the education-and-health-services sector led January's gainers with 3,000 new jobs.

Minnesota's January jobless rate of 3.7 percent was below the national rate of 4.9 percent. The Rochester metropolitan area's jobless rate in December was 2.9 percent; the January rate is not out yet for the area.

In past year:

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Minneapolis-St. Paul: 1.8 percent

Duluth-Superior: -1.8 percent

Rochester: 2.5 percent

St. Cloud: 2.4 percent

Mankato: 1.9 percent

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