ST. PAUL — Minnesota's private sector added 8,500 jobs in January, according to a new report by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.

That made it the strongest month for job growth in 20 months, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said in a statement, "tightening an already lean labor market."

Private sector employment figures were up by about 1,800 jobs, or 0.1%, compared to January 2019. Unemployment rates, meanwhile, fell by a tenth if a point to 3.2% from December 2019 to last month.

Nationally, unemployment levels increased slightly to a rate of 3.6%.

Five out of 11 job industry sectors that DEED tracks gained jobs last month, with the professional and business service sector leading the pack. It added 7,400 jobs last month and was followed closely by manufacturing, which added 2,500.

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Leisure and hospitality businesses, meanwhile, lost about 1,500 jobs in January.

The Mankato, St. Cloud and metro areas all gained jobs since last January. The Duluth and Superior areas, as well as the Rochester area, all saw small job losses since then of about 0.7%.