Minn. survey: Job vacancies up 32 percent over last year

Job vacancies were up 32 percent in the period from April through June compared to the same time last year, according to a report released Wednesday.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's twice-yearly job vacancy survey of employers found 41,397 job openings in the second quarter of this year, up from 31,358 a year ago.

Kyle Uphoff, assistant labor market information director for with the Department of Employment and Economic Development, called the vacancies an important precondition for full economic recovery:

"It really would seem that we're seeing a pretty wide expansion across a variety of different jobs and different industries," Uphoff said.

Over the long term, Uphoff said Minnesota's recovery will largely depend on the national recovery, which remains weak.

Most of the vacancies were in the Twin Cities, which accounts for 70 percent of the state's jobs, but Greater Minnesota actually saw faster growth in job openings.

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In Hibbing for example, unemployment has dropped from 18 percent a year ago to 9 percent.

Charlotte Hanegmon, a jobs counselor in the Workforce Center in Hibbing, said the mining and health care sectors have been hiring. And the 60-person Hibbing job club she used to run is dwindling fast.

"We're looking at probably closing the job club maybe October 1st," Hanegmon said. "We're going to see if we can scrounge up some more job seekers because I know there are still out there looking, but the type of people that have been coming to the job club are the people that do things.

"They go to workshops, they try the ideas, they're listening and they're doing and they're going to work, to the point that I've only got like six people who are still looking for a job."

Hanegmon said Hibbing's 9 percent unemployment rate is still higher than the statewide jobless rate of 6.8 percent, but she said the decline is "a wonderful improvement."

The vacancies report says there were about eight unemployed Minnesotans competing for every job opening a year ago, and now the number is closer to five.

But Pamela Pommer, a job-seeker from Bloomington doesn't find that calculation very useful. "I totally hate that because I'm sure it's based on some calculation, but I don't think it has anything to do with reality," she said.

Pommer is working part-time in retail and has been hunting for full-time work in communications for 16 months. She says that 5-to-1 ratio the state is touting sure doesn't ring true to her.

"I applied for a job with the City of Bloomington a few months ago. There were 300 [people applying] for an office assistant position," she said. "I'm hearing recruiters that come to talk to various groups, there are hundreds applying for one position."

Pommer also worries that as the economy revs up, people who have clung to jobs unhappily during the recession will now elbow their way back into the job hunt, too.

If they're hunting for jobs online, they'll have a little less company here than across much of the rest of the country. Today the Conference Board released figures showing nationwide, online job listings dipped in August. Minnesota was one of the bright spots, with more than 86,000 ads, the most for the state since Oct. 2008.

Other major findings from the report:

The metro area contains the most job vacancies, but outstate Minnesota enjoyed a faster growth rate.

The report also found less competition for jobs in the state. Last year, nearly 7.9 people competed for every job opening. Now that's down to 4.8 people.

Most job vacancies were in health care and social assistance (20.3 percent), retail (11.5 percent), accommodation and food services (10.5 percent), education (9.7 percent) and manufacturing (9.1 percent).

The report also shows that large companies have the most job openings.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of job openings last year as 25,000 instead of the correct number of 31,358.