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The unemployment rate in Michigan slid down just a bit during February, slipping by one-tenth of a percentage point from 4.9 percent to 4.8 percent, largely as a result of more workers joining the state labor force and successfully finding work.

Data released Wednesday show 32,000 men and women joined the state labor force during February, meaning they either found a job or were looking for one. Total employment in Michigan increased by 36,000 jobs, and unemployment fell by 4,000 positions, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

Increases in the labor force show that workers feel optimistic about launching a job search, and the added crowd of job hunters can actually cause the unemployment rate to temporarily increase if they don’t immediately find work. Even when that happens, economists consider it a healthy economic indicator. But during February, Michigan avoided that fate, with more people finding jobs than the number of men and women who joined the labor force.

“Michigan’s current labor market situation early in 2016 remains very sound,” Jason Palmer, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives said in a prepared statement. “Individuals have been entering or re-entering the state’s workforce at a good clip recently as payroll jobs continue to grow.”

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The new 4.8 percent rate marks the first time Michigan’s unemployment rate has dropped below the national rate since July 2015, and is the second month in a row that the rate declined, after staying flat at 5.1 percent from August through December.

The official jobless rate includes freelancers, contract workers and the self employed. During February, the total number of workers on company payrolls also increased, rising by 4,000 jobs. February was the fifth straight month that the state added payroll jobs.

Companies added 4,000 workers to the payroll in the leisure and hospitality segment, and another 4,000 workers in the construction industry, which has been adding jobs since November. Retailers picked up 3,000 workers, while the information and government employment sectors each added 1,000 employees. The manufacturing sector lost 3,000 workers during the month, followed by losses of 2,000 employees each in professional and business services and in education and health services.

All job categories in the state are up during the last 12 months, except for jobs in the information section, which has shown no gains or losses.

boconnor@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2145

Twitter: @BrianOCTweet

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