DEED labor market analyst Steve Hine says job counts and unemployment rates sometimes appear to contradict each other like the September numbers do.
"On a month-to-basis, these numbers can move opposite directions, particularly when the change is relatively small. And a 2,300 job decline is a relatively small decline," said Hine. "Even a three tenths of decrease in the unemployment rate in a statistical sense is a relatively small decline."
But Hine says the overall trend is remains clear -- Minnesota continues to lose jobs.
"It does continue a trend of job losses that are mounting and are quite significant," he said.
September was the third consecutive month of job losses in the state, and Minnesota's economy has now lost nearly 20,000 jobs so far this year.
Of course, some employment sectors are doing better than others.
Minnesota financial services firms have been adding jobs, growing about 1 percent over the past year, even though the sector lost 500 jobs last month. The education, health services and transportation and utilities sectors have also been adding jobs. But employment has been falling in sectors such as government, construction, hospitality, manufacturing and professional and business services. Employers are not only cutting jobs, they're also trimming pay raises.
A survey of more than 300 area firms by the Plymouth-based Employers Association found most employers plan to reduce wage increases by up to a half a percentage point for some groups.
Employers plan to keep wage hikes to between 3 and 4 percent next year. But the survey found just 4 to 5 percent of employers expect to implement pay freezes in 2009.
The association is doing an update to the survey, which dates from last July -- before the worst of the financial crisis had hit. But George Gmach says he doesn't expect the results to change much.
Gmach oversees the survey for the Employers Association. He says employers who need skilled workers know they have to be careful about cutting those workers loose or driving them to look for work elsewhere, even in a tough job market.
Gmach says employers want to retain workers they'll need when the economy eventually turns around.
"The world has not stopped. Unless a company plans on not being here tomorrow they need to keep their employees, and they need to keep them at a level of satisfaction to keep them motivated," said Gmach.
Motivation is important, too, for workers who've lost their jobs.
At the unemployment office in St. Paul's Midway neighborhood, job seekers pecked away at computer keyboards as they hunted for job leads.
Carol Flourney has returned to school to get a degree in business information technology. She says she needs more skills to get a decent job.
"There's hardly no work. There's no work if theres no proof of education or experience -- hands on experience. If you have none of that, it's hard to get a job," said Flourney.
You find a lot of construction workers at unemployment offices. That's because the construction industry is really hurting. It's the hardest hit of the major industry sectors.
Jesse Kyte of Eagan has been a union iron worker. He's been without a job since work on the 35W bridge project wrapped up.
"It's hard to find work. I've been looking for the last month and half and still I haven't found anything," said Kyte. "I got applications in at six different temp services, just to try to pick something up -- and nothing."
With the stock market in a deep funk and the economy sputtering, it looks like the job market will get worse before it gets better.
A report this month from the Conference Board says help wanted ads have been falling nationally. They're down in Minnesota over the past year, too.
The board says demand remains strong for higher-paying jobs, but the outlook is worsening for many of the unemployed.