Michigan jobless rate dips for first time in six months

Posted on October 18, 2012

The state unemployment rate edged down for the first time since April by one-tenth of a percentage point, dropping to 9.3percent for September, according to monthly survey data released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

The slight improvement in employment reflected the first real gain in six months for the Michigan job market, which had climbed from a post-recession low of 8.3 percent in April to 9.4 percent in August.

A total of 11,000 more workers had jobs in September than in August, 5,000 fewer men and women were looking for work, and the total number of workers in Michigan climbed by 7,000 for the month.

That increase in the labor force is a positive sign for the job outlook in the state; at other times, the unemployment rate has dropped because many workers gave up looking for jobs.

“The rate is down in Michigan not just because of some drop in the work force but because it’s actually up by more than 18,000 jobs from last September,” said Bruce Weaver, economic analyst with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

“Total employment is up and unemployment is down by 42,000 jobs. It’s growth and employment that really have driven the rate down the 10 percent level where we were for much of 2011.”

The big gains in employment during the last 12 months came in manufacturing, which added 17,000 jobs, and the business and professional services sector, which hired 22,000 more people.

Most other sectors were relatively flat, except for 8,000 retail jobs that were lost, and 7,000 government jobs that were eliminated since September 2011.

The new state rate is down by nearly a full percentage point from the state’s September 2011 rate of 10.2 percent.

Overall, the jobless rate is down significantly from three years ago, when it stood at 14.1percent in September 2009, just below the recession’s high of 14.2 in August 2009. The jobless rate has been lower than 10 percent for nearly a year.

The latest rate puts Michigan at 1.5 points above the national average of 7.8 percent. The U.S. jobless rate peaked at 10 percent in October 2009 and has been below 9 percent for 12 months.

Even before the start of the recession, Michigan’s jobless rate was outpacing the nation as a whole. In December 2007, when the downturn officially started, U.S. unemployment was at 5 percent, while the state jobless rate had climbed to 7.2 percent.

Brian O’Connor, Detroit News.