The Minnesota unemployment rate dropped to 7.0 percent in May and employers added 5,600 jobs, state economic officials said Thursday.
The rate is the lowest it's been since December 2008 and remains lower than the national rate of 9.7 percent.
The May unemployment rate is one-tenth of a percent lower than April's rate. Before then, the state's unemployment rate was 7.3 percent for three months in a row.
Of the 5,600 jobs added, 3,000 of them were in government, and most of those were likely U.S. Census jobs, said Dan McElroy, commissioner of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
But officials said the remaining 2,600 jobs added in May were in the private sector, making up a higher percentage of the new jobs than the nation saw in May. The national numbers for May showed 95 percent of the jobs added were from the U.S. Census.
State labor analyst Steve Hine said it was important for Minnesota to show additional job gains after employers added 10,500 jobs in April -- even though the Census jobs are temporary.
"It is significant that we have seen a couple months now of consecutive gains. We haven't seen that since that January and February of 2008," Hine said.
The May numbers were announced a day after the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis said the Midwest economy was improving. The Fed forecasts a 1.8 percent employment increase in Minnesota this year and a 1.4 percent next year.
McElroy said he's visited several workforce centers in the past month and believes job seekers are becoming more optimistic. The number of job postings is also increasing.
"There is more optimism in the workforce centers than, very honestly, I've seen for a couple of years," McElroy said.