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We’re number two! We’re number two!

Last Friday, June 18, 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the State of Michigan had the second highest unemployment rate in the nation. This marked the first time since April 2006—49 consecutive months—that Michigan was not number one!  The dubious distinction has now been passed along to Nevada.  The May 2010 numbers showed Nevada’s rate at 14.0 percent and Michigan’s at 13.6 percent.  Following in 3rd and 4th places are California (12.4 percent) and Rhode Island (12.3 percent).

The change in rank is even more important because it came as the result of increasing employment, rather than a drop in unemployment or by a shrinkage in the labor force as more discouraged workers drop out of the system.  May marked the 5th straight month where Michigan’s total labor force and employed workers increased in number, while the number of unemployed decreased.

Looking at the past 10 years, Michigan’s employment rate reached its high point in March 2000, when 4.9 million had jobs. The unemployment rate was only 3.3 percent! By December 2009, the number of people employed had dropped by 17 percent to 847,000 people, and the unemployment rate had risen to a whopping 14.5 percent.

While we are not out of the woods by any means, five months of steady progress qualifies as a trend.  If we keep this up, our unemployment rage might be lower than California’s and Rhode Island’s, which would drop our rank to number four! 

But what about Detroit?

While the Detroit Metropolitan Area continues to have a higher unemployment rate than the state as a whole, things appear to be turning around here as well.  Employment gains have come in each of the last four months (May 2010 numbers have yet to be released). While the number of unemployed has fluctuated, the steady increase in the total labor force means that more people are optimistic enough to reenter the labor force.  We are coming back!