In August, Mason, Manistee and Oceana counties saw jobless rates drop to the lowest level in almost two years.
According to non-seasonally adjusted data released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB), the three counties each had each had the lowest unemployment rates since December 2019.
Mason County’s unemployment rate for August was 4.8 percent, down from 5.6 percent in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. The bureau’s database shows that there are 105 fewer unemployed people in the county in August than there were in July.
The county’s workforce saw gains as well, growing from 13,649 to 13,728 people over the month.
Mason County’s August jobless rate is also down in comparison to August 2020, when unemployment was at 6.4 percent. There were 890 jobless people in the county at the time, and unemployment was still creeping down from its possible record highs reached a few month earlier as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nick Gandhi, an economic analyst for the DTMB, told the Daily News that Mason County’s unemployment levels are shifting in a manner that is on-trend for the area.
“It appears to be a case of seasonality, which is why the jobless rate is as low as it is right now,” Gandhi stated. “Looking at historical trends, jobless rates in the county tend to decrease in the months of August through October.
“In both 2018 and 2019, jobless rates dipped pretty quick beginning in August. If trends continue to hold, it would be expected that the jobless rate would continue to drop through the next two months of data.”
Gandhi attributed the decrease to unemployed people leaving the labor force in the area.
While the workforce did increase over the month, Gandhi said there is still some ground to gain in that regard before pre-pandemic levels will be seen again.
“Labor force levels are still below what we saw in the month compared to previous years,” Gandhi said. “The labor force in Mason County for (August) was at 13,700. In August 2019, this number was 14,300 and in 2018 was 14,200.
“While jobless rates may look like we are back to where we were before the pandemic, our labor force both in Mason County and across the state has taken a hit.”
The situation was similar in Manistee County, where the jobless rate of 5.3 percent was also the lowest since December 2019.
Manistee County’s unemployment decreased 1 percent from July, and 2 percent compared to August 2020. There were 102 fewer jobless people than there were in July and 210 fewer than in August 2020.
Manistee County’s labor force shrunk slightly, losing 45 people, but it grew by 52 people compared to August 2020.
Oceana County’s August jobless rate was 5.6 percent, down from 5.3 percent in July. In August 2020, Oceana County’s unemployment was at 7.1 percent.
There were 78 fewer jobless people over the month and 215 fewer than in August 2020.
Oceana County’s labor force decreased slightly from 12,346 people in July to 12,330 in August. That number was also down compared to a year prior, when there were 12,777 people in the labor force.
In Lake County, unemployment in August was also lower than it had been in some time. The county’s 6.9 percent jobless rate was the lowest since March 2020.
Lake County’s jobless rate was down from 8 percent in July and from 8.4 percent in August 2020.
In comparison to July, there were 48 fewer unemployed Lake County residents. There were 75 fewer jobless people than there were in August 2020.
Mason County’s August unemployment rate of 4.8 percent ranked 45th among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 13,728 people in the labor force with 12,066 working and 662 jobless.
Manistee County’s August unemployment rate of 5.3 percent ranked 58th among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 10,675 people in the labor force with 10,106 working and 569 jobless.
Oceana County’s August unemployment rate of 5.6 percent ranked 66th among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 12,330 people in the labor force with 11,634 working and 696 jobless.
Lake County’s August unemployment rate of 6.9 percent ranked 80th among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 3,957 people in the labor force with 3,685 working and 272 jobless.
Livingston County had the lowest August unemployment in the state, with a 2.4-percent jobless rate. Genesee County, at 8.2 percent, had the highest.
A press release from the DTMB stated that joblessness was down throughout much of the state in August. Michigan’s unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, with 4,778,000 in the labor force and 210,000 jobless.
Gandhi said watching labor force levels — both locally and statewide — will be key to determining when the state’s economy is back to pre-pandemic levels. As of August, the state is not there yet, he said, noting that there’s a significant difference in labor force participation between February 2020 and now.
“Statewide, our labor force participation rate was 61.8 percent in February 2020. (In) August 2021, (it) was 59.1 percent,” he said. “In terms of actual labor force numbers, this is going from 4,928,000 in the labor force in February 2020 to 4,726,000 in August 2021. So, roughly a drop of 200,000 across the state.”