State jobless rate up for third straight month

Brian J. O'Connor

For the first time in nearly a year, the Michigan jobless rate was higher than the national unemployment rate, rising by two-tenths of a percentage point to hit 4.9 percent during November. That compares with the November U.S. jobless rate of 4.6 percent.

According to data released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, the bump was caused by 28,000 workers joining the state labor force, with only 16,000 of them finding jobs. The result is an addition of 12,000 men and women to the ranks of the unemployed.

The November increase marks the third straight month that the jobless rate has increased in Michigan, but that’s not necessarily bad news. Economists point out that when hiring conditions are improving, the better job market encourages people who haven’t been looking for work to start job-hunting. Unless all those workers land jobs right away, the increase of jobless people in the labor force moves the unemployment rate up until the rate of employers hiring catches up to the rate of job-seekers sending out applications and resumes.

During the last 12 months, those rates have closely matched each other. Between November 2015 and November 2016, the state labor force of men and women who want a job increased by 109,000, with 111,000 Michigan residents getting hired. The result was a drop of 2,000 in the total of unemployed workers.

“The increase in the number of unemployed over the last several months reflects a sizable entry of individuals into the state’s workforce. Most, but not all have found jobs,” Jason Palmer, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “Over the last three months, Michigan’s labor force and total employment have recorded significant gains.”

The official jobless average is based on a survey of all workers, including those who are self-employed, contract workers and freelance or independent contractors. A separate survey of only employers found a decrease of 6,000 payroll jobs during November, with losses of 4,000 in both the retail and manufacturing segments, and a gain of 3,000 government jobs.

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