By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — The local area finished the year by adding nearly 600 jobs, a 1.1 percent increase compared to a year earlier.
There were 53,832 people employed in December compared to 53,260 a year earlier in the Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Blue Earth and Nicollet counties.
The figures come from the latest report by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
“Anytime you see positive numbers it’s a good sign,” said Brent Pearson, regional labor market analyst, for DEED, based in Mankato.
He said a good holiday shopping season helped lift employment in the region and statewide.
Goods-producing jobs fell slightly (0.5 percent) while service-sector and government jobs grew.
“From September to December you see those retail and service sectors ramp up for the holidays,” Pearson said.
It was the 28th consecutive month of year over year job gains for the region, according to Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth. He said that when comparing all months of 2011 to all months of 2012, the area saw an average monthly job gain of 1,220 jobs.
The December year over year gains were partially tempered by a 2 percent month to month drop, with 1,127 fewer jobs in December than November. “While job numbers typically do go down from November to December, this year the decrease is a bit larger, so we will certainly keep an eye on it,” Zierdt said.
The local job growth wasn’t quite as strong as statewide figures, which showed a 1.9 percent increase in jobs. The St. Cloud area added 2.8 percent to its workforce, while Rochester added less than 1 percent. Duluth saw a 2 percent job increase.
Statewide employers added 9,100 jobs in December compared to a year earlier.
“The state labor market is growing at a brisk pace, gaining more than 21,000 jobs in the final two months of 2012,” said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “Minnesota is recovering jobs well ahead of the rest of the country and is positioned to stay on that course in coming months.”
The state's unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent, from 5.7 percent in November. State job gains from November were also revised upward from 10,800 jobs to 12,300 jobs.
All metropolitan areas in the state added jobs in 2012. Growth was 1.9 percent, compared to a national average of 1.4 percent.