Minnesota's unemployment rate dropped in November as employers added jobs for a second straight month, in a sign the economy is improving.
The Department of Employment and Economic Development said Thursday that the unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted 7.4 percent, compared with 7.6 percent in October. Officials said employers added 2,000 jobs last month and an upwardly revised 5,000 jobs the month before.
Department Commissioner Dan McElroy said the average work week has inched up nearly an hour since September, another indication that business is picking up.
"We have a long way to go, but we made a little progress," McElroy said.
Still, the state has 83,900 fewer jobs than it did a year ago and as many as seven job seekers for every available position. McElroy said demand for temporary workers dipped slightly in November and will be watched closely this month to determine employers' staffing needs.
"If you go to one of our workforce centers and ask one of the people who are looking for work, this recession is not over," McElroy said.
Unemployment in Minnesota remains well below the national rate of 10 percent.
Nationally, new claims for unemployment went up unexpectedly to 480,000 last week, showing the halting pace of recovery. Economists are waiting for the number to drop to about 425,000 for several weeks to show that the economy is starting to add jobs.
State officials said the unemployment rate could rise as the economy recovers and more out-of-work people start job searches. McElroy said that would be a sign of recovery.
Six of 11 industry sectors tracked by the state added jobs in November, including trade, transportation and utilities. Gains were led by retail, wholesalers and heavy construction work on infrastructure such as highways and sewer systems.
Government _ including state government, public higher education and the post office _ shed jobs. So did education and health care, usually one of the strongest sectors.