ST. PAUL (AP) -- Slow hiring during the holiday season led to yet another decline in job openings in Minnesota during the fourth quarter, according to a new semi-annual state survey.
"Certainly hiring has not picked up in the way we, and a lot of other people, had hoped it would," said Oriane Casale, an acting assistant director of research in the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
However, job openings rose in some key areas, including manufacturing, construction and computer-related occupations. The median wage for vacant jobs overall increased by more than 8 percent from the same period a year ago.
During the fourth quarter, unemployed workers in Minnesota outnumbered vacant jobs by a ratio of about 2.5 to 1. That's up from 2-to-1 during the same quarter a year ago.
It was the end of lethargic year of hiring in Minnesota, according to state statistics.
An upturn in demand for manufacturing and information technology workers in the last three months of the year failed to make up for a fall of more than 9 percent in the overall number of job vacancies compared with the same period in 2002.
The quarterly job survey found 50,100 job vacancies in Minnesota from October through December -- down some 5,000 from a year earlier.
Back in the fourth quarter of 2000, job openings outnumbered unemployed workers by a 3-2 ratio. The job vacancy survey, a sort of flip side of the monthly unemployment report, was launched in 2000 when employers were complaining about a worker shortage.
Job vacancies fell during 2003's fourth quarter largely because of a 34 percent drop in retail job openings, coupled with a 26 percent decline in hotel and restaurant industry postings, said Steve Hine, research director with the economic development department.
Retailers nationally were more cautious in hiring during the past holiday season, opting to use existing employees and thus benefit from productivity gains.
Some higher-paying industries fared better. Manufacturing, for instance, had about 2,090 vacancies, a 54 percent increase over the same time last year.
That's the likely reason why the median pay for a vacant Minnesota job during the fourth quarter increased 8.2 percent from the same time a year ago, $10.28 per hour.
Still, the median wage for vacant jobs is considerably below the state's median wage generally, which was $14.25 in 2002, according to a recent state analysis.
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