By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — State officials announced Thursday that Minnesota’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.3% last month, down from 4.5% in January.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says the decline was the result of more people finding work, as well as a slight drop in the labor force participation rate, which fell a tenth of a point in February to 67.8%.

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The drop in unemployment comes as Minnesota’s effort to vaccinate residents has ramped up. The process is well ahead of schedule, which has lead to Gov. Tim Walz loosening restrictions for businesses. The vaccine rollout is expected to expand again this week.

“We are moving in the right direction, but we still have a lot of runway ahead for job growth,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove, in a statement.

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Minnesota gained 13,900 jobs last month. According to officials, this is just 200 jobs short of the peak pandemic recovery employment seen in October, before the state experience a surge in COVID-19 cases, leading to a tightening of restrictions.

Since last February, a month before the pandemic began, Minnesota has lost 213,531 payroll jobs.

Not all Minnesotans have been affected equally during the pandemic. The state’s communities of color have been hit particularly hard, officials say. Based on 12-month moving averages, the unemployment rate for Black Minnesotans was at 9.2% last month, up from 4.5% a year ago.

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For white Minnesotans, unemployment was at 5.9% in February, up from 3% a year ago.