ST. PAUL, Minnesota — More than 7,000 new jobs added in September served as further political fodder on Thursday in Minnesota's race for governor.
The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent after last month's 7,200-job gain, hitting an eight-year low. It dropped from 4.3 percent in August. The figures were released in the final leg of an election campaign focused on the economy.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the Republican nominee for governor, said there are more to Minnesota's numbers than meet the eye.
"The labor-force participation rate is the lowest it has been since the Carter years," Johnson said. "A lot of people have quit looking for jobs."
Steve Hine, Labor Market Information Office research director at the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said Minnesota's shrinking labor force is a result of the state's aging population. September saw a slight increase in the state's labor force — but not enough to offset population growth — and participation dipped slightly.
Gov. Mark Dayton said the report provides more encouraging news about an economy he said is clearly on the mend. He said Johnson's focus on a fractional change in the labor-force participation rate is evidence of desperation.
"Why doesn't he applaud the fact that we're adding more jobs and have been consistently," Dayton said, adding, "I don't know how anybody could say we're not making real economic progress."
The overall national unemployment rate is 5.9 percent. Professional and business services led Minnesota job gains in September, while government jobs declined most.
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