By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — State officials say Minnesota’s unemployment rate dropped slightly last month as more Minnesotans left the workforce and the state shed nearly 50,000 jobs amid the weeks-long period of tightened COVID-19 restrictions.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced Thursday that December’s seasonably adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.4%, down a tenth of a percentage point from November. The drop reflects Gov. Tim Walz’s tightened COVID-19 restrictions from late November through the holidays, when bars and restaurants were closed to indoor dining and social gatherings were limited. Those restrictions have since been lifted.

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“Today’s employment data confirms what we’ve expected – the spike in cases in late fall had an impact on the economy,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove, in a statement. “The predictable loss of jobs that accompanied the sacrifice that businesses and workers had to make may turn out to be temporary, as just 10% of those surveyed said their job loss was permanent.”

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Minnesota shed 49,800 payroll jobs in December, with 41,000 of them being in the hospitality and leisure sector. December was the second consecutive month of job losses, erasing gains made from August through October.

The state’s labor participation rate, which measures the economy’s active workforce, fell 0.4% last month, dropping to 67.5%.

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Nationally, the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7% last month. The U.S. labor force participation rate also held steady at 61.5%.