Minnesota's unemployment rate dropped slightly in April, and job losses slowed. The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 8.1 percent, cmopared to 8.2 percent in March. That compares to a national rate of 8.9 percent.
Minnesota employers shed 9,500 jobs in April, which is about half as many jobs as the state lost in March.
Commissioner Dan McElroy of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says he's not yet interpreting the numbers as a turning point in the recession.
He says Global Insight, the national forecasting firm used by the state, is still projecting a national unemployment rate slightly above 10 percent by year's end.
"We're deeply hopeful that Minnesota will outperform that. I think it's better reflected as perhaps a pause, but an opportunity," said McElroy. "We will need to see what happens in the next few months to know what the trend is. One month doesn't make a trend."
Employment levels tend to recover more slowly as the economy comes out of a recession.
The sector called Education and Health Services, which includes health care, added 4,700 jobs in April. The Leisure and Hospitality sector also saw an increase. It gained 1,200 jobs.
McElroy said construction work should pick up as state projects from public works bills going back to 2007 are let. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has an extra full summer construction season this year thanks to federal stimulus money.
He noted that window and door maker Andersen Corp. has reinstated employees who were laid off earlier this year as stimulus energy tax credits boost demand for residential windows.
Minnesota has lost about 100,000 jobs over the past eight months. The losses have hit the Twin Cities harder than regional hubs including Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester.
With Minnesota's unemployment rate hitting above 8 percent for three months in a row, another extension of unemployment benefits is likely. Some unemployed workers already qualify for up to 72 weeks of jobless benefits. Another extension could add 7 more weeks of benefits.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)