Minnesota owns the lowest unemployment rate of any state — ever

Minnesota's 1.8% unemployment rate in June was the lowest ever recorded by a state over a half-century of recordkeeping.

State officials say the low jobless rate is mostly a good thing. But it means employers and hiring agencies need to do a better job connecting with people they've previously overlooked, they say.

Minnesota has 2.7 open jobs for every one available worker. The state's labor force remains smaller than before the COVID-19 pandemic, and population trends suggest that will not change quickly.

"(Record-low unemployment) is a good thing, but it also means there’s lots of opportunities in our economy that are not being filled by workers," said Steve Grove, the state's economic development commissioner. "We don’t have enough workers to fill the jobs that are out there today."

Monday, state officials visited a Minnesota Valley Transit Authority garage in Eagan, where students with disabilities have been working this summer. A state program seeks to connect employers with job training agencies for workers with disabilities.

The state's jobs market has raced to a recovery over the past two years. Yet the tight labor market appears to have slowed hiring over the past two months. Job growth was essentially flat in June.

About 72,000 people have not returned to the state's labor force after the pandemic. Over the past year, the labor force participation rate among white workers has shrunk to 68.4% from 68.9% in June 2021. That's because many workers have retired, state officials said.

"Those people are not going to be coming back into the labor market, for the most part," said Oriane Casale, assistant director for the state's labor market information office. If those workers do return, it will likely to be part-time work, she said.

That makes every available worker key.

State officials said they were concerned that the unemployment rate for Black workers has gone up over the year, to 7.4% in June from 4.5% in June 2021, in the opposite direction from the jobless rate for white and Latino workers.

Meanwhile, Monday's visit to MVTA highlighted workers with disabilities, who can be overlooked for job openings. Four students participated in a program run by Great Work, an employment agency in the Twin Cities that partners with the state. That led to $16-an-hour summertime jobs detailing buses for Schmitty and Sons of Lakeville.

Allie McCullough, the company's human resources director, said she would have otherwise struggled to find enough workers. In the past, the company relied on referrals from employees whose kids were in college.

"Our usual returners have graduated college and have gone on," McCullough said. "We need summer detailers. This was a great opportunity and they’ve been some of our best detailers yet."

Asher Tholl showed DEED Commissioner Grove what it takes to clean a transit bus, a process he said can be dirty work. The experience has prepared him for a job doing janitorial work at his parents' veterinary clinic, he said.

"It’s easy, simple work (cleaning buses)," Tholl said. "Get in there, try to do the best you can."