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Minnesota jobless rate falls to 5.9 percent

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Minnesota's jobless rate fell by half a percentage point to 5.9 percent in November even as employers cut nearly 14,000 jobs in the state.   

That's the third month in a row Minnesota has seen both declining unemployment and shrinking payrolls.  

The unemployment rate was the lowest in Minnesota since October 2008 and well behind the U.S. rate of 8.6 percent in November.

State employers eliminated 13,700 jobs in November, and October figures were revised to reflect an additional 1,200 jobs lost during that month. The state has lost 22,900 jobs over the past three months, even while the unemployment rate was falling from 7.2 percent to 5.9 percent during that period.

State officials say the mixed results make it difficult to draw clear conclusions about the state of the labor market.

Nationally, the number of people applying for benefits fell last week to 366,000, the fewest since May 2008. If the number stayed that low consistently, it would likely signal that hiring is strong enough to lower unemployment.

The unemployment rate is now 8.6 percent. The last time national applications for unemployment were this low, the rate was 5.4 percent.

The big question is whether fewer layoffs will translate into robust hiring. It hasn't happened yet, even though job growth has been rising consistently each month.