Unemployment still up compared to 2020

Mason County's unemployment rate decreased in February for the first time since October 2020.

According to non-seasonally adjusted employment data release Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB), jobless rates decreased between January and February throughout the state. These decreases were seen at the local level, too, as Mason, Manistee, Oceana and Lake counties each exhibited lower unemployment rates over the month.

However, unemployment is up compared to last year. Mason, Manistee, Oceana and Lake counties were among the 76 Michigan counties that saw increases in joblessness compared to February 2020, as the state’s economy continues to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mason County had a 7.1-percent February jobless rate, marking a decrease from 8.4 percent in January. There were 165 fewer jobless people in Mason County in February than there were in January, and 70 more people employed.

Nick Gandhi, an economic analyst with DTMB, told the Daily News that there’s a reason why these two numbers are different, and it has to do with a major factor in the state’s economy — the fluctuating labor force.

“The reason the that employment gains did not offset loss in unemployment is due to the decreasing size of the labor force,” he said.

Gandhi said the drops in labor force levels could be responsible for the statewide upticks in employment.

“This is also why we see jobless rates decrease (not only) in (Mason, Manistee, Oceana and Lake) counties but also across the entirety of the state,” he said. “This has caused some issues as many look to the jobless rate as an answer as to how the economy is doing.

“Jobless rates the first two months of this year have made it appear that the economy has mostly recovered; however, these rates are low again due to that shrinking labor force. In reality, most industries have yet to fully recover and/or still remain well below pre-pandemic employment.”

Mason County’s labor force decreased slightly from 12,991 people in January to 12,896 people in February.

Joblessness in Mason County remains higher than it was before the pandemic hit. Mason County’s February 2020 jobless rate was 5.3 percent, with 763 people unemployed. The over-the-year increase is 1.8 percent.

Manistee County’s February jobless rate was 7.8 percent, down from 9.5 percent in January. The number of jobless people decreased over the month from 954 to 777.

But Manistee County also saw slight losses in its labor force, which decreased from 10,035 people in January to 9,930 in February.

Manistee County also had increases in joblessness compared to February 2020, when the jobless rate was at 6.1 percent.

Oceana County’s February jobless rate was 8.4 percent, down from 9.8 percent in January. There were 163 fewer unemployed people from month to month, but the labor force was down from 11,491 in January to 11,355 in February.

Oceana County’s jobless rate was up from 6.8 percent in February 2020.

Lake County, with 8.9 percent unemployment, had the highest February jobless rate among the four counties. That’s still an improvement compared to January, when joblessness was at 10 percent.

Lake County had 49 fewer unemployed people in February than in January, but there were 49 fewer people in the workforce.

Unemployment in Lake County was was up 2.9 percent compared to February 2020, when its jobless rate was 6 percent.

Labor force decreases were seen not just at the local level, but throughout the state, according to Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, who stated in a release that February saw labor force declines for the second consecutive month in most Michigan regions.

Gandhi said the lower labor force levels are probably a continued result of COVID-19, since there was not a trend of this kind in the years prior to 2020.

“When more people start to return to the labor force, it is to be expected that unemployment rates will rise initially as they will not all directly go from out of the labor force to employed,” he said.

OTHER STATISTICS

Mason County’s February jobless rate of 7.1 percent ranked 53rd among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 12,896 people in the labor force with 11,974 working and 922 jobless.

Manistee County’s February jobless rate of 7.8 percent ranked 66th among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 9,930 people in the labor force with 9,153 working and 777 jobless.

Oceana County’s February jobless rate of 8.4 percent ranked 70th among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 11,355 people in the labor force with 10,397 working and 958 jobless.

Lake County’s February jobless rate of 8.9 percent ranked 76th among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 3,805 people in the labor force with 3,467 working and 338 jobless.

STATEWIDE

Michigan’s statewide February jobless rate of 5.1 percent was down from 6.1 percent in January, with about 50,000 fewer unemployed people.

Unemployment at the state level was up from 3.8 percent compared to the same time last year, with about 53,000 more unemployed people.

There were statewide labor force losses both over the month and over the year.

Livingston County had Michigan’s lowest February jobless rate at 3.1 percent., while Mackinac County had the highest at 17.5 percent.

Total employment, unemployment, the jobless rate and the labor force numbers are derived directly from a monthly national survey conducted by the Census Bureau for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to a press release from the DTMB.

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