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Mich. jobless rate falls to lowest level in 17 years

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in June, the lowest it’s been in 17 years.

Part of the reason for the decline is that there were fewer people in the labor force, officials said. Still, experts say the figures released Wednesday by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget indicate an overall positive trend for the state.

“You do see the unemployment rate generally trending down,” said Robert Dye, chief economist for Comerica Bank. “It means workers and people who want to work are finding jobs.”

The figures detailing the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate show a decrease by 0.4 percentage points from 4.2 in May. The rate of 3.8 percent is less than the nation’s June unemployment rate of 4.4 percent.

“This is tempting to say it’s a good as it gets,” said David Sowerby, portfolio manager for the Loomis Sayles & Co. investment firm. “It was not just low, but it was also lower than the U.S., which is positive. When you think about 2009, when you think we were in the 14 percentage — I don’t think any state in the country has seen that steep a decline as the state of Michigan has.”

The state’s June jobless rate was the lowest recorded since August 2000, officials said.

“This is another exciting step on the path toward our future as Michigan’s reinvention continues,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement Wednesday. “We’re going to keep that momentum going now as we continue to build and educate our workforce, and create more and better jobs.”

When comparing the latest figures, one must take into account the state’s larger economy in August 2000, said Bruce Weaver, economic analyst with the Department of Technology, Management & Budget. The state’s total number of people in the workforce in June 2017 was 281,000 or 5.7 percent below the total number in August 2000.

In a monthly comparison between May and June of this year, the state’s workforce fell by 29,000 as the number of those claiming to be unemployed dropped by 20,000 and employment dropped by 9,000, officials said.

Dye said he does not put much trust in monthly fluctuations. Rather, he focuses on long-term trends. And overall, he sees a positive trend.

Despite recent labor force reductions, the job market has grown overall during the past year with total employment rising by 95,000 or 2.1 percent, state officials said. The number of unemployed fell by 46,000 or 19.7 percent.

The state’s June jobless rate was a full percentage point below 4.8 percent recorded in June 2016.

“The longer-term trend is we have had increases (in jobs),” Weaver said. “Over the longer period, the labor market is in very solid shape.”

Weaver said areas that have shown job growth in recent months are in business and professional services, as well as in trade, transportation and utilities.

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