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– It would seem businesses here have adopted a new unofficial motto: “Now hiring.”

“It’s an exciting time to be looking for a job,” said Erik White, a northeastern Minnesota labor analyst with the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) — though it’s less exciting trying to hire someone with such a small pool of applicants.

Duluth’s unemployment rate fell to 2.7% in September, according to state figures released Tuesday, and the three-county region around it had a similarly small share of jobseekers who were out of work.

That has been the trend for several years now, as unemployment rates around Minnesota remained well below what economists might consider full employment. And in northeastern Minnesota, the only part of the state to see its workforce decline since the start of the century, there is extra pressure on employers to find the workers they need to grow.

“It’s a tight labor market statewide, regionwide, so all communities are trying to do the same thing,” White said. “There are jobs available, so what can you offer to get people to stay?”

Elena Foshay, Duluth’s director of workforce development, said employers are getting creative both in what they offer, like flexible scheduling, and who they’re looking for.

“What can an employer do to be more open and inclusive?” she said. “That [racial] disparity persists despite the hot job market.”

Statewide, the unemployment rate for black Minnesotans was 6.6% in September, more than twice the rate for white residents, according to DEED statistics.

Although low unemployment is supposed to lead to increased wages as employers compete for talent, Foshay said pay still isn’t growing in many industries.

“McDonald’s is paying more than it has ever paid, but overall wages are not growing as much as you think they would,” she said.

White wrote in a recent report on the region’s economy that as more workers retire and there aren’t new workers moving in to replace them, the labor market will likely remain tight. “To sustain economic stability, an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed where economic disparities are reduced for people of other races and workers with disabilities, and participation rates increase for older workers.”