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Minnesota's labor force continued its upward trajectory in April but has begun to show signs of loosening amid a continued worker shortage.

Though the state has yet to recover from the workforce losses of the COVID-19 pandemic, and employers are struggling to fill tens of thousands of vacant jobs, there are signs of a slowdown: As of February, the state had 175,000 job openings, down from 192,000 a year prior. Still, that means there are two openings for every job seeker.

"We're certainly pleased to report this continued and steady economic progress but also, of course, recognize there's an opportunity to grow even faster in Minnesota if we can loosen that constraint of our tight labor market," Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Matt Varilek said during a virtual news conference Thursday. "And that's why our agency and partners across state government remain focused on doing all we can to bring more people into the labor market."

April marked the fourth-consecutive month of job growth in Minnesota. The state's labor market has repeatedly outperformed the rest of the country, and that continued last month with higher private sector job growth, labor force participation and wage growth as well as lower unemployment than the U.S. as a whole.

Through the month, most of Minnesota's 11 "supersectors" posted gains, with the greatest growth in financial activities, manufacturing and construction. Four supersectors lost jobs, with the biggest drop in government.

"We usually see about half of Minnesota's supersectors lose jobs and the other half gains jobs each month," DEED Labor Market Information Director Angelina Nguyễn said in a statement. "It's a positive indicator that in April we saw more supersectors gain rather than lose jobs."

Average hourly wages in the private sector rose 33 cents to $37.13 in April. Year-over-year earnings have marginally outpaced inflation, rising 3.5% compared to a year-over-year consumer price index (CPI) bump of 3.4% in April.

Though inflation continues to exceed the Fed's 2% goal, economists welcomed the most recent CPI report as a sign interest rate hikes are pumping the brakes on the economy, keeping the door open for cuts later this year.