State jobless rate up for first time since 2009

Brian J. O'Connor
Detroit News Finance Editor

Michigan’s jobless rate edged up during September by one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.6 percent, giving the state its first increase in unemployment for the year.

The last time the monthly jobless rate increased was June 2009, when the level jumped by five-tenths of a point. Since then, the state had recorded 86 straight months where the rate was either unchanged or lower.

The reason for the increase, however, isn’t bad news: the reason for the increase was that 14,000 men and women who hadn’t been looking for work started their job-hunts. A total of 11,000 of those people landed jobs, while about 4,000 entered the ranks of the officially counted unemployed.

“The modest rise in the state’s jobless rate in September reflected an increase in the number of individuals entering the state’s labor market seeking employment,” Jason Palmer, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “The majority of those entering the job market in September found employment, while some continued their job search.”

To be counted in the official workforce tally, workers must be either job-hunting or employed. A surge of new job seekers is typically seen as the jobs picture brightens and more people feel optimistic about finding employment, economists say. Much of the time, the blip up in the official jobless rate is temporary.

The news was more straightforward in the separate payroll jobs survey, which doesn’t count workers who are self-employed, freelancers or independent contractors. That survey of employers found an increase of 5,000 payroll jobs during September. The state has gained 85,000 payroll jobs so far this year, while the official survey shows an increase of 93,000 jobs of all kinds through September. The two separate surveys tend to move in the same direction over time.

The Michigan jobless rate remains below the national average of 5 percent.

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